New, Medically Unnecessary Regulations Could Undermine Women’s Access to Health Care
Planned Parenthood Federation of America sharply denounced Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for signing medically unnecessary and politically motivated regulations intended to shut down all abortion providers, which could undermine women’s access to reproductive health care providers in Virginia.
“Make no mistake, Governor McDonnell’s excessive regulations are based on his political agenda, not on medical necessity. This is an attempt to shut down all abortion providers in the state in a backdoor attempt to ban abortion,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “He took advantage of a cumbersome regulatory process to push these regulations through with minimal public input. And months after the professed ‘emergency,’ he signs them when he thinks no one is watching.”
In August, Governor McDonnell fast-tracked the excessive and onerous temporary regulations on a purported “emergency” basis, thereby limiting public discourse of and education on the issue. And according to recent reporting by the AP, the regulations process in Virginia was driven by politics, not by scientific or medical evidence.
Months later, Governor McDonnell has signed the so-called “emergency” temporary restrictions. Health care providers will have only two years to comply with some of the most onerous architectural regulations — or shutter their doors. Separately, the state indicates they intend to pursue additional, permanent regulations.
It is worth noting abortion care is already difficult to access in the commonwealth, with 85 percent of Virginia’s counties lacking an abortion care provider.
But these onerous regulations will affect more than women’s access to early abortion care, because most abortion care providers offer a full array of safe, affordable, preventive health services, including breast and cervical cancer screening, STD prevention and treatments and birth control. As a result of these so-called “emergency” regulations, thousands of women risk losing access to preventive health care, because women’s health centers could be forced to close.
“The real impact of Governor McDonnell’s action today is thousands of Virginia women could lose access to their trusted health care provider,” said Richards. “Regulation of all medical centers that genuinely protect the health and safety of patients is critical. In contrast, these politically motivated regulations are medically unnecessary and in some cases inappropriate, do not adequately protect patient privacy, and could cause high-quality health centers to close. This puts Virginia women’s health at risk.”
Reproductive health care services are among the safest and mostly commonly sought forms of care in the United States, and health centers that specialize in reproductive care are already among the nation’s most rigorously regulated and scrutinized health care providers. Under current Virginia law, regulations are already in place to uphold patient health and safety. Doctors must be licensed by the state Board of Medicine and are subject to numerous regulations. Women’s health providers are subject to the same regulations as physicians’ offices providing services like colonoscopies.
The onerous and medically irrelevant requirements of the regulations demonstrate that they are about politics, not women’s health. Under the professed “emergency” temporary regulations signed by Governor McDonnell today, women’s health providers that offer early abortion care could be required to rebuild their health centers to have operating rooms of at least 150 square feet, corridors of at least five feet, and to meet similarly inflexible and medically irrelevant requirements, even if their current rooms and corridors are only a few inches smaller and are entirely medically appropriate for the services provided. Furthermore, providers that only offer medication abortion care in their practice would be required to rebuild to meet these requirements, even though surgical abortion care is not provided — only an oral medication is taken.
“Planned Parenthood stands ready to do whatever it takes to protect women’s health and rights,” Richards concluded. “We will do what we can to continue to care for the more than 23,000 patients who rely on our Virginia health centers, and we will fight for permanent regulations that reflect sound medical evidence, rather than Governor Bob McDonnell’s political agenda.”
December 29, 2011
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
December 29, 2011