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Stop McDonnell & Cuccinelli's TRAP scheme

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Tarina Keene is executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

Sanity seems to have left the commonwealth of Virginia.

Earlier this year, the country watched with shock and awe as Virginia passed a mandatory ultrasound bill that forces a woman to undergo an ultrasound procedure before receiving an abortion - even if she does not want an ultrasound and even if her doctor thinks it is unnecessary. Now, the Old Dominion - Thomas Jefferson's commonwealth - is again poised to humiliate women and doctors by shutting off access to safe, legal abortion.

Since the McDonnell Administration and an activist attorney general came into power two and half years ago, the policy making process has been wrought with duplicitous backroom deals and contrived regulations in an effort to ban abortion... and even birth control. So far, they've gotten away with it.

This Friday, the Virginia Board of Health will again meet to consider proposed permanent regulations for women's health centers - what we call "TRAP," targeted regulations on abortion providers. But don't be fooled. These proposed regulations have nothing to do with patient care or safety despite what McDonnell and Cuccinelli may purport. They want to force doctors' offices that provide first trimester abortion - and have been doing so safely for nearly 40 years - to now convert themselves overnight into mini-hospitals, which you may agree is nearly impossible to do! The Board of Health literally is imposing new 2010 hospital construction guidelines on doctors' offices that have been open and operating for four decades! What this means is that women's health centers must spend hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars adding additional toilets, expanding the size of their doors and hallways, increasing treatment rooms to the size of your car garage, making sure there are as many parking spaces as there are beds (even though there are no overnight stays), and expensive, very specific ventilation systems. All this for one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States today, which generally takes fewer than 10 minutes to complete.

Simply put - if regulations are passed as written with these forced building construction requirements, the majority of the state's abortion providers may be forced to close putting women's health and safety at risk.

What does this mean for women? Under the proposed permanent regulations, the 20 women's health centers that provide safe, affordable early abortion care in Virginia will be forced by the government to comply with overly burdensome, medically unnecessary regulations to just keep their doors open - costs that could be so high that health centers are forced to close their doors entirely. This has a detrimental impact on women's access to affordable healthcare, especially for young, low-income, uninsured or underinsured, rural and minority women who count on women's health centers around the state for their primary care. If even one health center closes, that could mean higher costs for women who already struggle to access and pay for healthcare.

We need to bring sanity back to the commonwealth of Virginia and end attacks on women's health and privacy. Without public action or legislative oversight, Gov. McDonnell and AG Cuccinell will have a free pass to implement the most aggressive laws in the country to impede access to women's health care and abortion. This overreach of power is unconscionable! But it's not too late.

The regulations are before the Virginia Board of Health this Friday June 15. If approved through the next stages of the regulatory process, these regulations will become law in early 2013. Please ask each of the 15 BOH members to use their medical expertise - not politics- to make the logical decision to stop this insane attempt to impose politically motivated regulations onto abortion providers. The women of Virginia are counting on them.

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