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Activists protest emergency abortion regulations ahead of vote on permanent rules

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) –  Thursday marked a day of action for pro-choice advocates across the Commonwealth.  They’re voicing their opposition to Virginia’s new abortion clinic regulations, taking their case straight to the doors of the state’s top lawmakers and health officials.

The General Assembly passed these emergency regulations back in 2011, and they’ve  been in place since January 1st. They required abortion clinics to upgrade facilities to operate more like hospitals, expanding hallways and adding parking lots and elevators.

When it was passed, critics said it was a way to force many of the states then 23 abortion providers out of business, by forcing them to add unnecessary upgrades they couldn’t afford.

Since the regulations came into effect, 20 clinics have submitted applications  saying they intend to comply with the new standards. Two clinics have said they will perform less than five first-trimester abortions a month, excluding them from the requirement. One has stopped providing abortions.

The board is set to vote on permanent regulations on June 15, and activists say they want to make sure their voices are heard well ahead of time.

Thursday’s effort is being organized by a group called Oppose TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers). They say today their goal is to bombard all 15 members of the board of health, as well as the state’s topic lawmakers with phone calls, e-mails and even personal visits voicing their opposition to the regulations.

Small groups are hand delivering letters to two members of the State Board of Health that live in Central Virginia. They’ll be the ones voting on the regulations in June

“What they’re deciding here has a huge impact,” said Molly Vicks, an activist who took part in the day’s events. “This is part of the overall war on women, and the overall effort to make abortion illegal or inaccessible one way or another.”

“The thing is when you make abortions illegal or inaccessible, you don’t keep abortions from happening. Abortions have happened from the beginning of time, you just keep safe abortions from happening.”

The group says they’ll also be making stops at the offices of Governor Bob McDonnell, Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli, as well as the state’s secretary of health and humanity, and the health commissioner.

Meanwhile, the regulations have a great deal of support from others in Virginia who say they aren’t meant to be political, but are about women’s health and safety.

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