Current rules for Virginia women’s health centers, called Targeted Restrictions of Abortion Providers (TRAP), are about politics, not medicine. How did we get here?
Three years ago, the Virginia Department of Health convened a panel of six top medical experts from across the state to initially draft new restrictions set in motion by Virginia’s General Assembly in 2011. Those experts recommended evidence-based regulations that protected women's health, but the Department of Health ignored their own doctors' recommendations and drafted rules based in politics, not medicine.
During the process of final decision-making by the Virginia Board of Health in 2012, then Attorney General Cuccinelli pressured the Board behind the scenes, coercing them into approving restrictions designed to shut down health centers. Now, abortion providers must meet building requirements designed for new hospitals - requirements that no other health care facility in Virginia must meet - despite the fact that first-trimester abortion is a common and extremely safe outpatient procedure.
Doctors and medical groups oppose these regulations because they aren’t necessary for patients’ safety. Medically unnecessary restrictions designed to shut down health centers jeopardize women’s health by making it more difficult for women to access safe and legal abortions, along with the comprehensive, preventative health care these centers provide, like cancer screenings.
Three of 21 women’s health centers in Virginia have already been forced to close or stop providing abortion services in part due to these medically-unnecessary regulations. If the regulations remain unchanged, additional health centers will close, cutting off women’s access to preventative and critical health care.On May 12, Governor McAuliffe directed the Department of Health to review medically unnecessary rules currently regulating women’s health care centers in Virginia, called targeted restrictions of abortion providers (TRAP). The Department of Health must complete the review on October 1, 2014. The Commissioner of Health recommended amending the restrictions. A 45-day public comment period from June 16 - July 31, 2014 resulted in over 10,600 comments from the public urging rules based in medicine, not politics.