Friday, February 25, 2011
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...
(From an Associated Press report written by Dena Potter.)