Vote over abortion clinic regulations deferred Thursday

HENRICO, Va. -- A vote over abortion clinic regulations by the Virginia Board of Health was deferred Thursday.

Governor Terry McAuliffe’s appointed board members have been systematically attempting to remove the restrictions placed on abortion clinics, by past board members, said Dr. Bob Holsworth, political analyst.

Pro-life advocates believe the facilities need to look more like hospitals, which introduces a level of staffing and expenses  not previously required by abortion clinics.

Pro-choice advocates want these facilities to continue to look like an outpatient surgical facility, where the standard operating procedure would be to transport someone to the hospital if a complication arose.

“Making these facilities look like hospitals…it’s a backdoor effort, you might say, to close abortion clinics,” Holsworth said, regarding how pro-choicers feel.

The voted Thursday was postponed over concerns were raised about a document that was posted on the board's website.

That document had incorrectly stated that the board had already voted to amend those abortion clinic regulations, before it actually took place. Public comments were also left out.

Hours before the meeting began, dozens of pro-choice advocates were outside to voice their opinions about the abortion clinic regulations.

Many said they don't believe the government has a right to be involved in the choices a woman makes about her own body.

On the other side, The Family Foundation, expressed concerns about the conditions of abortion clinics, as well as the document that was posted.

"As the Commissioner of Health acknowledged to the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules Yesterday, some mistakes were made at the staff level within the department in preparing the agency background document for the final amendments to the regulations of licensure of abortion facilities," said Joseph Hilbert, Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs at Virginia Department of Health.

"They basically told the pro-life community in Virginia, ‘you have no voice, we're not interested in what you say’ and in doing so they violated state law,” said Chris Freund with The Family Foundation. “So even if they delay the vote today, quite frankly the damage is done."

As for how those mistakes were made, the VDH said they're doing an internal review.

The board plans to hold a special session sometime between now and December 1 regarding the vote on abortion clinic regulations.