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Health center hurdles are hurting women

Date published: 7/18/2014

We all want women to be safe. But over the past few years in Virginia, a woman's ability to obtain safe and legal abortion and comprehensive preventive care has been jeopardized by unnecessary regulations targeting abortion providers.

These restrictions single out abortion providers even though other procedures, like colonoscopies, have a much higher rate of complication and are commonly performed in similar outpatient clinics.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that first-trimester abortion has a 99 percent safety record and that fewer than 1 percent of women have complications.

Further, reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood have rigorous medical standards and guidelines from the CDC and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among others.

Three years ago, the Virginia Department of Health assembled a panel of six top medical experts from across the commonwealth to draft regulations. Those experts suggested regulations that protected women's health, but the Department of Health disregarded their own doctors' recommendations and drafted regulations based on politics, not medicine.

And in 2012, the Virginia Board of Health was coerced to pass restrictions designed to shut down health centers.

Now these health centers must adhere to building requirements intended for new hospitals--requirements that no other type of health care facility in Virginia must meet.

To date, five women's health centers have been forced to close or cease offering abortion care due to these restrictions.

Urge the health department to repeal and rewrite the current restrictions of women's health centers to protect women and preserve access to comprehensive reproductive care.

Hollen Tillman