With the backing of two Democrats and a tie-breaking vote cast by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Republicans in the Virginia Senate today won approval of an amended health bill that would require the state's abortion clinics to be regulated like hospitals.
The 20-20 vote on Senate Bill 924, which now heads to Gov. Bob McDonnell, represents a significant victory for anti-abortion activists, who have been trying for years to restrict access to abortion in Virginia, only to have bills killed in the Democrat-controlled Senate Education and Health Committee. McDonnell has indicated he would sign the legislation.
Democratic lawmakers and women's rights advocates decried legislation, which was altered on the floor of the House earlier in the week through an amendment tacked onto an unrelated bill by Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell and came to the Senate without being debated or discussed in committee.This is sensible legislation and reasonable in light of recent stories such as the massacre in Philadelphia last month. Hats off to the Senators who had the courage to stand up and do the right thing and protect the cause of life.
They said it would effectively restrict a woman's access to abortion services by forcing the state's 21 clinics to meet standards set by the Board of Health regulating hospitals -- standards that include things like expanded hallways, parking lots and elevators that most clinics could not afford.
Currently, first-trimester abortions are considered medical procedures that can be performed in physicians' offices, similar to medical procedures such as colonoscopies, vision correction surgery, cosmetic surgeryand dental surgery. Abortions in the second trimester or later must be performed in a hospital setting.
The amended legislation would require that any medical office performing more than five first-trimester abortions per month be classified as a hospital and subject to regulations devised by the State Board of Health -- a body that is appointed by the governor.
UPDATE: The Associated Press claims this is a tactic to force abortion clinics to close:
Virginia took a big step Thursday toward eliminating most of the state's 21 abortion clinics, approving a bill that would likely make rules so strict the medical centers would be forced to close, Democrats and abortion rights supporters said.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican and Catholic, supports the measure and when he signs it into law, Virginia will become the first state to require clinics that provide first-trimester abortions to meet the same standards as hospitals. The requirements could include anything from expensive structural changes like widening hallways to increased training and mandatory equipment the clinics currently don't have.
While abortion providers must be licensed in Virginia, the clinics resemble dentists' offices and are considered physicians offices, similar to those that provide plastic and corrective eye surgeries, colonoscopies and a host of other medical procedures.
Democrats and abortion rights supporters said the change would put an estimated 17 of the state's 21 clinics out of business. Most of the clinics also provide birth control, cancer screenings and other women's health services.
"This is not about safety for women. This is about ideology, and this is about politics," said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. "The women of the commonwealth are going to be the ones left to suffer."
Abortion rights supporters warned of legal challenges while supporters heralded it as a way to make the procedures safer.
"It is not about banning abortions," said Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester. "It is simply caring for women who are about to have an invasive surgical procedure and creating an environment for them where they have the opportunity to do that in a place that is safe."
No other state requires clinics that provide early abortions to meet hospital standards.
For years, abortion advocates have claimed that they want to make abortions safe. But as opponents of this bill have revealed what they really want is for abortion to be available on demand at any time. Their concern for the health of the woman ends when reasonable regulations to insure a woman's health are introduced. Once again the hypocrisy of abortion advocates is in plain view for all to see.