Roe v. Wade might have been decided in 1973, but women are still fighting for the right to control their own bodies.
In the past year, numerous bills and laws have been enacted to make it harder for women to access abortions in states where abortion is legal. Worse, these bills are often passed under false pretenses, making it even harder for advocates to fight them.
Virginia's Board of Health passed just such a set of regulations today. When enacted, these regulations are almost guaranteed to shut down most of the state's abortion providers.
Two years ago, the Virginia legislature passed legislation requiring abortion providers to adhere to hospital-style building codes. But most abortion providers are not full hospitals. Therefore, they do not need to be covered under such building codes, which include items like 5-foot wide hallways, covered front entrances, and specific ventilation systems. Furthermore, renovations to adhere to these codes are incredibly costly, and since the clinics already don't get public funding, they will almost all have to shut down due to lack of resources.
After an extensive review by the Virginia Board of Health, the agency decided to exempt current abortion providers. The Republican Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, has threatened the Board with a repeal of his legal services, telling them that "they could be personally on the hook for legal bills." The Board had no choice but to approve the bills without an exemption.
Abortion rights have already been under fire in Virginia. As of April 2013, abortion laws in the state require doctors to provide discouraging information to women seeking an abortion, including an ultrasound. They also instituted a 24-hour waiting period between a woman entering the clinic and the actual procedure.
The bill, which is the next step in this anti-abortion trend, is currently awaiting final approval from the attorney general himself. That means it is just a matter of time until women in Virginia are indirectly denied the right to seek an abortion, a right granted to them under Virginia state law.
This is simply outrageous. It is bad enough that legislatures are surreptitiously trying to outlaw abortion in states that guarantee it as a right, but to have attorney generals use their power to unduly influence outcomes comes close to being called corruption. Virginia, you’re better than this.