Board of Health abortion clinic vote sparks anger, praise

Posted at 10:43 AM, Apr 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-12 18:48:12-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) --  The Virginia Board of Health has given the green light for stricter standards for abortion clinics.

The board of health passed the General Assembly mandated regulations to tighten licensing standards for Virginia’s abortion clinic in a vote of 11-2 Friday morning.

Opponents of the move shouted during the public hearing over the new regulations.

In fact, some protestors, chanting that the board of health had blood on their hands, were escorted out of the session by police.

"You've heard from the people who say that these are excessive," said Jeff Winder. "This will sentence those to die in back alley abortions."

But passions ignited on both sides of the issue. 

"Our position is that abortion is not health care because it ends life," said Virginia Podboy, the Associate Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference. "Since abortion clinics operate under the guise of health care, the facilities that perform these life ending procedures should function as proper health care facilities."

Eleven members of the board agreed with that sentiment, but two members pushed back.

Jim Edmondson Jr. and Anna Jeng supported postponing the vote and revisiting the issue of grandfathering clinics. The pair said they are concerned about the costly burden the regulations might put on clinics that would have to make structural changes.

"My concern from the beginning has been access. I don't want to see any of them close," Edmondson said.

Alena Yarmonsky, another opponent of the new regulations, said she fear some women would not only be left without access to abortions, but also birth control in Virginia.

However, other board members countered that putting clinics out of business isn't the intent and argued, as supporters have, that the law will keep women safe.

"We keep hearing these regulations are expensive, but we believe Virginia women are worth this," said Podoy.

At a public hearing last month former Virginia Commissioner of Health Karen Remley said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli overstepped his legal authority when he refused to accept the board’s initial vote last year to shoot down the new regulations.

Remley resigned over the attorney general's action.

The Board of Health has already given preliminary approval for the regulations, which took effect on an emergency basis January 1, 2012.

Now that the board of health has approved the measure, facilities in Virginia will have up to two years to complete the changes.