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Final Hearing On Virginia Abortion Clinic Regulations Draws Strong Opinions

6:11 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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Protesters were not happy about the abortion clinics vote

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA9) - Virginia's new abortion clinic regulations are supposed to be about improving women's health and safety. But providers say the new laws will force most of Virginia's 20 remaining clinics to shut down, leading to a return of back alley abortions.

The regulations will require small clinics like the Falls Church Healthcare Center to enlarge janitor closets, to expand other rooms and hallways and even replace ceilings to make them hospital grade.

Rosemary Codding, Director of Patients Services at the Falls Church Healthcare Center says they've already spent $40,000 making changes and would have to spend over $1 million to meet all of the new regulations. She says they're going to try to stay in business if they can find the money, but they're not sure.

Many of the 20 remaining abortion providers across Virginia may not be able to afford the changes and may have to close.
Codding is worried that if that happens, desperate seeking to end a pregnancy will search the internet for help. And they'll find it.

'With the internet there are so many opportunities for illegal abortions, street abortions, street medications," said Codding.
When Codding opened the Falls Church Healthcare Center 11 years ago, anticipating changes from a Virginia legislature that has enacted some of the strictest abortion measures in the country, she made the hallways wide enough to allow a gurney.

But the changes she made didn't go far enough to meet these new regulations which many medical professionals call excessive and unnecessary. Several doctors told the Board Of Health earlier this year that the regulations were based on politics, not medicine, and were designed to block access to abortion, nothing more.

Codding held up a book with 460 the new construction guidelines at today's final hearing on the new regulations which was held at John Marshall Public Library in Alexandria. And then, she had a warning for the Virginia Board of HealtH which backed off it's first decision to grandfather in existing clinics after pressure from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

"You need to advocate to the Board of Health to stop promoting illegal abortions in Virginia. Harsh words, I know, but these regulations will do just that," Codding said.

At today's hearing, staff members also heard from many anti-abortion speakers advocating for the new regulations. They argued that the new measures are necessary for the health and safety of women. Some of the regulation supporters mentioned the women who died in Maryland last month while undergoing a late term abortion. In Virginia, providers can only perform first trimester abortions.

The public comment period on those new regulations ends March 29th. Then -- the comments and the regulations go back for a review by the Governor and Virginia's Attorney General. They could be enacted -- as soon as May.

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