unregulated abortion centers

After Years Of Roadblocks, Are The Days Over For Unregulated Abortion Centers In Virginia?

As we noted yesterday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion Friday that clearly explains the legal basis on which the Commonwealth of Virginia can regulate abortion centers absent legislation by the General Assembly. While laws are more lasting, his advisory opinion —sought by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Roanoke) and Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) —  means that abortion centers operating in Virginia can be regulated by the executive branch through the state's normal regulatory process. Providing safety standards for Virginia's abortion centers have been a legislative priority for The Family Foundation for many years. Until the mid-1980s, abortion centers in Virginia were regulated. Unfortunately, the administration of then-Governor Chuck Robb repealed those regulations due to constitutional concerns. Since that time, however, as the attorney general's opinion notes, federal appeals courts have ruled that such regulations are constitutional. Yet, in Virginia, abortion centers continue to be regarded by the state as doctors' offices, which require no emergency equipment for resuscitation or hemorrhage, despite the fact that abortion is a major invasive surgical procedure. 

The Family Foundation has worked for years in the General Assembly for common sense legislation to improve safety standards in abortion centers to equal those required for ambulatory (outpatient) surgery centers. Of course, the abortion industry in Virginia — Planned Parenthood and NARAL — fight with all their political muscle against these safety standards for women in their abortion centers. Each year its allies on the Committee of Death (Senate Education and Health Committee) reject simple requirements such as an annual inspection and having a defibrillator on site.

They argue that the abortion procedure is safe, despite the fact that the state doesn't have any reporting requirements for complications due to abortion (also fought against by the abortion industry), so there is no way to really know. They also argue that abortion centers shouldn't be "singled out" for regulation.

What they don't say is that other outpatient surgery businesses are self-regulated through respected, national accreditation organizations that require significant safety measures for their seal of approval. No such respected accreditation group exists for abortionists.

The Attorney General's opinion gives Governor Bob McDonnell's administration the opportunity to create necessary regulations for abortion centers without approval from the General Assembly. Since state agencies such as the Board of Health already have the power to regulate medical facilities this is not a new policy or a policy change that should require legislation. Previous governors simply have not acted on this ability. This opinion now clears the legal path to such needed action.

Pro-Life Bills Up Thursday In Senate Ed And Health

This Thursday the Senate Education and Health Committee will vote on several pro-life bills that are priorities of The Family Foundation. Please contact the members of the Ed and Health committee (see here) and urge them to pass the following bills:

HB 334 (Delegate Bob Marshall, R-13, Manassas): This bill would require that our Informed Consent law be updated to include information that has been published in a peer reviewed medical journal about the consequences of abortion on future pregnancies. Ironically, Planned Parenthood, which has accused pregnancy resource centers of disseminating information that is not "medically accurate," is opposed to this bill that requires the information given to women at Virginia's unregulated abortion centers to be exactly that —  medically accurate.

HB 393 (Delegate Matt Lohr, R-26, Harrisonburg): This legislation would require Virginia’s unregulated abortion centers to have on site life saving equipment, as well as require licensing and regular inspection. Currently, Virginia’s abortion centers are unregulated and uninspected.

HB 1042 (Delegate Kathy Byron, R-22, Lynchburg): This bill would require that unregulated abortion centers perform an ultrasound to better determine the gestational age of the unborn child prior to an abortion, and offer the woman seeking the abortion the opportunity to view the ultrasound. It would bring Virginia's Informed Consent law in line with modern medical technology.

If you are familiar at all with the Virginia General Assembly then you are aware just how antagonistic the majority of the Ed and Health committee usually is toward even the most reasonable pro-life legislation. On an annual basis, we see pro-life bills die on what we have begun to call "Black Thursday" — the last Thursday of committee hearings each session.

Why, bother contacting these legislators who seem so clearly opposed to protecting the unborn? There are several reasons:

First, past votes are not always indications of future action. Legislators change their minds. You may recall Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath), while running for governor, talking about "growing" as a legislator (he was referring to his flip-flop on the Marriage Amendment). We have worked with legislators who have become more and more pro-life over their time in the legislature, often through the education process associated with debate over these bills.

Which leads to a second reason, education. These bills offer us the opportunity to educate both legislators and the public on these important issues. They give you the opportunity to discuss controversial issues with friends and neighbors by talking about reasonable measures often supported by large majorities. Each time we present these bills to a committee we are able to reach more people with the message of the importance of protecting both the unborn and women who face a crisis pregnancy. You never know when a legislator is going to hear an argument that is going to change their opinion of a certain piece of legislation.

Finally, these votes expose where legislators currently are on reasonable abortion measures. Several members of the Ed and Health committee are in districts that have a pro-life  constituency. These senators mask as "moderate," but their voting records on these bills have exposed their real positions. Next year, when these senators are up for re-election, the voters in their districts will know exactly where they stand on these issues because they will have a four-year voting record to look at. Voters will then be able to hold them accountable for their votes.

So, please do your part. Contact the members of the Ed and Health committee and urge them to support HB 334, HB 393 and HB 1042.

When It Comes To NARAL's Report Card, Failure IS An Option For Virginia!

In some bright news amidst the regular drumbeat of negative national and state reports, Virginia earned a coveted grade from NARAL Pro-Choice America last week — an "F" in protecting abortion on demand! My message to them: You ain’t seen nothing yet!

However, just a quick glance at NARAL’s criteria for Virginia’s stellar grade conveys just how out of the mainstream NARAL actually is when it comes to abortion. For example, one strike against us is that we "ban a safe abortion procedure." That procedure is the brutal act of partial birth infanticide!

Another strike? We require "biased-counseling requirements and mandatory delays" prior to abortion. That would be the vastly popular and reasonable Informed Consent law. The bias-counseling? A pamphlet that describes the gestational development of an unborn child!

It gets better. Virginia also "restricts young women’s access to abortion services by mandating parental consent." Imagine that, requiring a parent be involved in a medical procedure when a teenager is the patient!

They also claim that Virginia law "subjects abortion providers to burdensome restrictions." What would that be? We don’t allow women to be subjected to second and third trimester abortions inside unregulated and uninspected abortion centers, but instead require that they be done in hospitals.

All that before we even get to the lies. In one place they claim Virginia restricts low income women’s access to abortion when, in fact, Virginia is one of only 17 states that goes beyond federal requirements and pays for low income abortions that are "elective."

While we can all be somewhat proud of this failing grade, to me, we have a long way to go to restore a respect for human life in Virginia. That will happen when we finally require Virginia’s abortion centers to be regulated and inspected; when we no longer force taxpayers to fund Planned Parenthood and low income abortions; when we bring our Informed Consent laws into the 21st century by requiring an ultrasound prior to an abortion.

So, although we don't think we truly deserve an "F," we hope you celebrate it for a moment. Then, let's all get back to work to truly earn that grade next year.

Abortion Center Licensure Bill Passes House Of Delegates With Huge Bi-Partisan Majority!

Today, the House of Delegates passed by a vote of 72-25 HB 393, patroned by Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg), a bill that would put unregulated abortion centers (see LiveActionBlog) under three simple regulations: licensure, an annual inspection and to have life saving equipment on premises, such as defibrillators. In fact, the General Assembly Building has three such devices. In the floor debate on the bill’s second read yesterday, when bills in the House are debated, opposition came from one of the General Assembly’s biggest pro-abortion advocates, Delegate David Englin (D-45, Alexandria). He tried to make the case that unregulated abortion centers are regulated. But Delegate Lohr correctly replied that, if so, then the simple requirements in the bill would not be cause for concern to the abortion centers. Delegate Englin then tried to paint a picture of hypocrisy by stating that doctors’ offices of various specialties are not regulated by the state. However, as Delegate Lohr responded, specific boards govern each medical specialty. But there are no boards that institute standards for abortionists.

The bipartisan vote — 11 of the 36 voting Democrats voted yes — was one of the largest margins in recent history. The bill now goes to the Senate where it most likely will be referred to the Education and Health Committee. Although pro-life bills typically meet a horrendous fate there, we will continue to fight for — and ask your help in those battles — on just bills, such HB 393, and continue to spotlight the lawmakers who prove to be grossly out of step with mainstream Virginia.

HWI In The Morning

The first committee meeting on one of our priority bills was this morning in the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. The bill in question is HB 393, which would put only the slightest regulations on the very unregulated abortion centers — an annual inspection, licensure and a requirement to have life saving equipment on premises, such as a  defibrillator. Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg) is the patron. Even the General Assembly Building has defibrillators. If they are good enough for lawmakers, they should be good enough for women undergoing a very serious invasive procedure. The plain fact is, abortion centers — not "clinics" mind you, because clinics are where you go to get well — fly under the regulatory radar. Even podiatry offices are more regulated than abortion centers. It's the most hypocritical exemption in Virginia.

So, this morning, the bill was due to come before the full committee, bypassing the sub-committee as is the chairman's want for bills that have been debated for several years. Everyone knows the arguments, it receives large bipartisan support (hate to break that to you liberals), and, in truth, is largely uncontroversial — except for the most adamant abortion-at-any-cost ideologue. The last time this bill came before HWI, in 2008, it passed 17-5, with four Democrats voting in favor, including House Democrat Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville). But there was a problem on the way to the vote . . . Delegate Lionell Spruill (D-77, Chesapeake) objected to the bypassing of the sub-committee process, even though it went straight to full committee in 2008.

His reasoning? There are "four new members of this committee, Mr. Chairman, who have never heard this bill before." To which Delegate Spruill should know that three of them are for the bill. The chairman, Delegate Bobby Orrock (R-54, Caroline County), who replaced former Delegate Phil Hamilton, had the clerk explain the differences in the current bill from the 2008 version. Again, the fact is there are fewer proposed regulations in this bill than the 2008 version.

All this wasn't good enough for Delegate Spruill. So, Delegate Orrock acquiesced and held over the bill. He was to decide by tonight whether to send it to sub-committee or bring it back to full committee on Thursday, by which time, we hope Delegate Spruill will have had time to read the bill. Which is what he should have done in advance of the meeting. If, in fact, he is truly that concerned.