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Virginia Board of Health Passes Law for Abortion Clinics

September 28, 2011

I am just as suspicious as the next woman of government-controlled access to abortion, not based on my personal ideology, but because the government’s interference in any aspect of women’s health seems to be at the whim of whomever stands to make money from it.  Witness the latest slinging of allegations regarding breast implants or hormone replacement therapy, and don’t even get me started on DES or the national C-section rates.

So, I read this HuffPost article on abortion clinics expecting to thoroughly annoyed, and instead left confused.  Here is the gist:  the abortion clinics will now have to meet code for surgical centers.  Bringing clinics up to code is expensive, and while abortion may be a booming business, and I really have no idea how much money is made off of it, the abortion centers don’t want to have to comply with surgical center regulations even though they perform surgical procedures.

At first I wondered why women weren’t rejoicing–haven’t women fought to get safe abortions that don’t occur in dirty or insecure places?  Haven’t women fought to get access to health care that meets all the codes used to ensure safety for men?  Well, yes, women have, but abortion centers say that coming up to code is too expensive.  And the HuffPost author takes issue with things like parking space regulations, hinting that this targets abortion providers unfairly because why?  Because abortion providers should be given an exception even though they perform surgical procedures that don’t require an overnight stay?

They would treat abortion clinics as if they are hospitals if the clinics provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month and would enforce architectural design standards that will be almost impossible for most clinics to meet. For instance, a clinic must have 5-foot-wide hallways, 8-foot-wide areas outside of procedure rooms, specific numbers of toilets and types of sinks and all of the latest requirements for air circulation flow and electrical wiring. Each clinic must also have a parking spot for every bed, despite the fact that first-trimester abortions don’t require an overnight stay.

Strangely enough, the author of this article seems to equate abortions with a drive-through order instead of a surgical procedure.  Any surgical procedure carries risk, and any abortion carries risk.  All risks to a woman’s health go up when she is pregnant, period.

While its tempting for women to simply cry foul when the government requires increased standards, the flip side of the argument is that women have not received the same medical care in “clinics” that are required for other types of surgical sites.  And the main issue that keeps coming up is cost, the cost of renovations.  The other comment that then follows is fear-mongering about how the cost of bringing an abortion “office” up to code is going to limit women’s abortions.

Health advocates say they are worried that women in Virginia could lose all access to abortions as a result of the new rules, which are scheduled go into effect by Jan. 1.

“Right now, none of our facilities would be in compliance with these regulations,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, which has five clinics in the state that provide abortions.

Hurd told HuffPost that his one clinic that provides abortions would have to undergo “substantial and costly renovations” to comply with the new rules.

“I’m just amazed by their unrealistic and draconian views of how we’re gonna transition from a doctor’s office that provides abortions to a surgical center,” he said. “For us, the regulations are gonna be unduly burdensome and onerous, and they don’t reflect what’s necessary for patient safety. For others, it sets the stage for the closure of some high-quality health care centers.”

God forbid we limit a doctor’s office from doing abortions that should be done in a surgical center.  Let’s just keep it cheap and low-end, shall we?  Because after all, that’s not a form of social commentary on abortions either, right?  Realistically, this guy just said that surgical abortions were performed in a “doctor’s office” and is bitching because now they need to meet code for a surgical center, but it still is remarkably low-end.  Why wouldn’t women who are getting abortions deserve the same standards for surgical centers?  Why would doctors think that an abortion is a simple office visit?  Either these doctors are making light of an abortion because it’s big business, minimizing the risks, or they are too cheap to comply with state code for surgical procedures.

I understand the whole cost issue, but let’s face it, women who are poor face less access to everything, abortions included.  But it makes no sense to say that because women are poor that they don’t get the same safety regulations that other people “enjoy.”  To really stop the moralizing, it should have been equal access to the same safety procedures for women regardless of the medical procedure women request.

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