By Nikolai Barrickman and Naomi Spencer, 8 September 2011
A new Virginia law requires women’s health clinics to comply with far stricter regulations. The change will effectively limit women’s access to abortions and other gynecological care.
The new requirements were enacted August 27 by the state legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Robert McDonnell. The rules are a product of an item included in the Virginia budget bill passed earlier this year which reclassified abortion clinics as hospital facilities. The law will go before the Virginia Board of Health for a final vote on September 15.
Highlighting the anti-democratic nature of the change, the law was passed using a fast-track “emergency” process which allows bills to bypass required public notice and comment periods traditionally allowed in cases where such legislation is being considered.
The change will impose onerous new regulations on abortion providers, such as a requirement to maintain hallways at least 5 feet wide. Rooms in which the procedures are to take place must be at least 250 feet in size. Clinics must allow for an additional 50 feet of janitorial space per room. Providers must also have separate scrub rooms and spaces provided for patients in case of overnight stays.