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Virginia passes tougher abortion standards
State is first in the country to require hospital standards for clinics

Date published: 2/24/2011

RICHMOND – Clinics that provide five or more abortions in a month will be regulated like hospitals under an amendment that narrowly passed the Senate, normally the bulwark against abortion restrictions.

The vote will make Virginia the first state to apply such regulations to first-trimester abortions.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said yesterday that he will sign it.

The vote tied, at 20-20, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling breaking the tie. Two Democrats and all Republicans voted for it.

Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania, voted against the measure; Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, voted for it, along with all Republicans.

Houck is chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, where abortion restrictions usually die. A similar bill was killed there earlier this session. But this week House Republicans applied the change as an amendment to a different Senate bill, forcing the Senate into an up-or-down vote.

Republicans say that the measure will improve the health and safety of abortions and the pregnant women who get them, by adding a level of regulation and accountability to clinics.

“This is not about banning abortions in Virginia,” said Sen. Jill Holtzman-Vogel, R-Winchester. “It is simply caring for women who are about to have an invasive surgical procedure… in a place that is safe, that considers their health, and where we have an opportunity to consider what reporting requirements arise.”

Democrats said the bill would force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close, and would reduce access to abortion for poor and rural women.

“This is a sad, sad day for the women of Virginia and their families. We are about to be the only state in the union that require all – all – first-trimester abortions to be performed in hospitals,” said Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax. “What we are doing is taking Virginia, which has a well-deserved reputation for moderation, and radicalizing it. We will be denying access of poor, disadvantaged and rural women to safe abortions.”

Howell said there is no evidence of a need for added regulations on clinics.

“There’s no data showing our current system doesn’t work,” she said. “The people pushing for this amendment are the same people who don’t want women to have any access to abortions. This is just one more way to take away our rights.”

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