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Board must decide what to do about new rules for Virginia abortion clinics

RICHMOND, Va. – After years of back and forth debate and votes, the Virginia Board of Health – with several newly appointed members -has once again been ordered to review the “Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers,” also known as TRAP.

“If you are really concerned about women’s safety, then let’s talk about that honestly,” Muna Hijazi who wants to see TRAP amended said.

She was one of nearly 100 supporters and opponents of the abortion regulations on hand Thursday for the Virginia Board of Health meeting.

In 2012 the board voted against new regulations that would force existing abortion clinics to be held to stricter codes, similar to those hospitals must abide by. Last year the board voted in favor of the stricter standards and the regulations were put in place to tighten licensing requirements for abortion clinics in the Virginia.

The stricter standards were supported by dozens of people who attended Thursday’s meeting.

“When you are a young girl in crisis and you are going into that abortion center, the last thing you are doing is thinking about are safety regulations,” Leslie Blackwell said. “Your head is down you are not looking at anybody. You are so ashamed; so scared. You are just hoping this doctor, this nurse is not going to hurt you.”

But opponents, like Hijazi, hope the new board will revise the standards and revert back to less strict guidelines in the coming months.

“These regulations, basically building codes, shut down the vast majority of women’s clinics in the state,” Hijazi said. “It’s unacceptable and it puts women’s lives at risk.”

There is limited time on how long the 14-member board has to amend or repeal the regulations. Typically the public comment period lasts 30 days, but it was extended to 45 days in this instance. The board must complete its review by October 1.

In May, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe order the year-old abortion clinic regulations be reviewed. He also appointed five new members to the Board of Health.

“I am concerned that the extreme and punitive regulations adopted last year jeopardize the ability of most women’s health centers to keep their doors open and place in jeopardy the health and reproductive rights of Virginia women,” Gov. McAuliffe said in a statement. “In order to grow and diversify our economy, Virginia needs to be open and welcoming to all, and we need to ensure that all Virginia women have access to the healthcare resources they need.”