Home Ken Plum: Protecting the health of women

Ken Plum: Protecting the health of women


Virginia is in the process of adopting 26 pages of new regulations for health clinics that perform first-term abortions.  The General Assembly in a bill that I voted against mandated the regulations be issued without public comment as emergency regulations to become effective January 1, 2012.  Currently the 22 clinics that are now regulated as out-patient centers will under the new Health Department rules be regulated as hospitals.  The necessity of the emergency regulations according to the proponents is to protect the health of women.  Proponents include the Family Foundation and the Catholic Church, both of whom oppose any abortions.  No evidence of the harm that has come to women who used the clinics in the past was offered.  Opponents say the regulations are likely to close all the clinics in Virginia because none will be able to afford to meet the hospital standards which they say is the real intent of the regulations.  Opponents include Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

Ironically the individuals who are supporting the regulation of health clinics are for the most part opponents of government regulations.  They are advocates of less government.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its wide ranging authority to issue regulations for clean air and water and environmental protection is often the subject of their wrath.  At the same time that regulations to ensure that your water is safe to drink and that air pollution be cleaned up are being challenged as being anti-business and government intrusion, stiff regulations to protect women from unspecified health damages while reducing their access to a legal medical procedure are being advanced.

Governor McDonnell who signed the bill requiring the regulations will review them before they become effective, but he is not expected to change them in any way to reduce their impact.  Emergency regulations are effective for one year while new regulations are written.  Given the appointees by Governor McDonnell to the State Board of Health, the more permanent regulations are not likely to be less stringent.  Adoption of permanent regulations will provide a required opportunity for public comment.  The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on whether this expansion of the regulatory authority of big, anti-business government is necessary to protect the health of women, or will the regulations result as many fear in more women’s health being put in jeopardy as they face the most difficult personal decision they will ever have to make.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.



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