Accountability for Abortion Centers: Six Years and Counting

Six years ago today, the Virginia General Assembly passed the law to hold abortion centers to reasonable health and safety standards for the first time. Virginia, like many other states, resolved to make certain that the Kermit Gosnell's of the world could no longer remain unaccountable for the ghastly practices and horrific conditions inside their abortion facilities. But that accountability didn't happen overnight. Even though the bill included an "emergency provision" in order to take prompt effect, the Board of Health still had to write the regulations. 

Several months later, after much deliberation, the regulations went into effect, opening the door to periodic inspections which have allowed us to discover what was really going on inside these abortion centers and to see whether they were actually complying with the law. And just as we had suspected, the evidence has shown substantial and widespread health and safety violations. Since the first Health Department inspections of mid-2012, beginning with 20 abortion centers statewide, over 1,300 individual regulatory violations have been cited in official records from the Health Department. And those were just the ones cited, though certainly not representing exhaustive searches. In that time, six centers have closed their doors, with 14 remaining. 

One abortion center - Virginia Health Group in Fairfax - was so bad, that within 24 hours of a 52-page report of violations, Governor McAuliffe's own Department of Health suspended its license, effectively shutting it down for good. Yet remarkably, the evidence does not show that many of these centers are improving their health and safety record over time. In November of 2016, during the most recent round of biennial inspections, the Annandale Women and Family Center was cited for 117 regulatory violations in a 144 page report - the most ever cited in a single abortion center inspection report. The record of these centers is replete with egregious examples of health violations including bloody, unsterilized medical equipment, doctors and nurses not washing hands or re-gloving between patients, and violations of state and federal drug laws. 

It is within this context that Governor McAuliffe and his majority-appointed state Board of Health have spent the last three years doing everything they can to roll back and water down the abortion center health and safety regulations. Despite overwhelming evidence of their necessity, this administration will clearly stop at nothing to pay back favors to the billion dollar abortion industry. We spent that time resisting these attempts at every turn, but elections do have consequences, and time and power eventually prevailed in stripping the regulations of their force. 

As of Monday, the final amended regulations have been posted for one final 30-day period before which they will take effect. Our options now are limited, but we are committed to continuing the fight where we can. We recognize, after all, that every life has tremendous value. That includes the lives of the babies whose lives are taken in these halls of death, but it also means the women who are permanently impacted by their experience there and who also deserve to be treated with care according to high standards of health and safety. We believe that ensuring that has led to positive and meaningful results that promote and preserve life in our state. And that's something worth fighting for.