Abortion Wars II: The Cooch Strikes Back

If only what is happening in Virginia was as cool as The Empire Strikes Back. Unfortunately, the reality is that the women of the Commonwealth have been dealt another severe blow to their reproductive autonomy. As if it wasn’t hard enough already to get an abortion in Virginia, the state’s attorney general Ken Cucinelli is making it even harder, this time with onerous regulations, or TRAP laws.

TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) are designed not to help women or abortion providers, but to do just the opposite. If you’ve ever heard certain politicians decry over-regulation as making it nearly impossible to do business, this is it. Except, ironically, the party that typically says those things is the same party pushing for these regulations, that will almost surely put abortion providers out of business.

This round of anti-woman legislating involves the implementation of recently passed laws to force clinics that are not hospitals to adhere to the same standards. (Most abortions are done in the clinic setting, in places that are more like out-patient centers.) To be clear, these standards will not in any way make the abortion process safer or easier for women. These regulations call for minimum hallway widths, specific ventilation systems and covered entrances.  The Board of Health voted to grandfather in existing clinics, allowing them an exemption. Mr. Cucinelli was having none of this however, and essentially told them to override their initial decision, thus forcing all clinics to have to comply. As the Huffington Post reports, “none of the 20 clinics in the state that are applying for a new license currently meet the requirements, and in order to come into compliance in the allotted two-year time period they would have to undergo costly, extensive renovations.”

It bears repeating: No other health care provider is being subjected to anything like this. This is not about making abortion safer for women. If that was Cucinelli’s goal, he would be doing the exact opposite, or at the very least, staying out of the discussion.

About one in three women will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Some of these women live in Virginia – last year, Virginia residents made up one-quarter of the 2,033 women who called DC Abortion Fund for help. Erecting barriers to access for a procedure that is currently safe and legal only seeks to harm those who need it most and have the least means of seeking treatment elsewhere. It is nothing short of an undue burden, and Virginia women deserve better.