Virginia's War on Women

June 6, 2014

Pro-life activists are used to hearing the trope of the so-called “war on women,” twisting compassionate efforts to save mothers from trauma and babies from death as somehow not in women’s best interest. So there is a certain tragic irony when pro-choice officials like Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe get caught actually lowering medical standards for women.

Three years ago pro-life members of the Virginia General Assembly passed a law requiring minimum safety standards for abortion facilities in the Commonwealth. The abortion industry fought the standards every step of the way, even after the grisly details of Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors in Philadelphia put a national spot light on abortion practices, and even after Virginia Health Department inspections -- mandated by the law -- revealed dirty equipment, bloody exam tables, and other sub-standard conditions in abortion facilities across the Old Dominion.

The newly-elected Governor’s claim to champion “women’s issues” is belied by his instructions to the Board of Health to re-examine the new abortion facility standards. Gov. McAuliffe is exercising raw political power to water down protections for vulnerable women who find themselves in the tragic position of seeking an abortion.

Victoria Cobb of the Family Foundation of Virginia captured this irony in her notes from the Thursday meeting of the Virginia Board of Health:

The Virginia Board of Health today took no action as it learned that a review of abortion center health and safety standards has already been initiated by the Commissioner of Health at the request of Governor Terry McAuliffe. The Board met in Richmond and heard a brief review of the process that will take place over the next several months.

In my testimony during the Board's public comment period, I urged the Department of Health to close down the Virginia Beach abortion center of the notorious abortionist Dr. Steven Brigham, the same plea I made at a press conference outside that facility on Tuesday.

You can read more about our press conference here in a story from yesterday's Virginian Pilot.

And, you can read more about Steven Brigham and why we believe he should be prohibited from owning or operating abortion centers in Virginia here. You can read my complete press conference remarks here.

At today's Board meeting, members learned that the Department of Health will conduct a review over the next several months of Virginia's abortion center health and safety standards adopted just last year. The review will be completed by October 1, but the Board will not likely take any action on what the Department recommends until December. At that point, the Board could reject the Department's recommendation, or begin the arduous 18-month process of redoing the regulations.

For over 20 years abortion centers in Virginia went unregulated. After legislation was passed in 2011 requiring the Board of Health to adopt health and safety standards, it took two years before the standards were finalized. Since the initial inspections of abortion centers began in 2012, over 300 violations have been found. Multiple abortion centers had bloody and unsterilized equipment. Multiple abortion centers had untrained staff. Multiple abortion centers misused drugs. The list goes on and on.

Incredibly, the same abortion industry that fought for two decades against health and safety standards, including opposing legislation in 2011 that would have required only licensing, inspections and emergency equipment, now claims to want "reasonable regulation," but asserts that the current standards are too strict. The industry gave Terry McAuliffe $2 million of hush money during his campaign in hopes that he'd reverse the standards. Honestly, how strict can the regulations be if someone like Steven Brigham can still own or operate two abortion centers in Virginia?

Our hope is that the Commissioner of Health and the Board members do not allow themselves to be bullied by Terry McAuliffe and the abortion industry, and keep the current standards in place.

So, will the Virginia Board of Health go along with the Governor’s war on women? (Click here to read comments submitted by my FRC colleague, Arina Grossu.)