Today, Virginia's Board of Health will vote on whether to adopt abortion clinic safety regulations. While to most of us it seems obvious that abortion clinics should be subject to the same basic standards that govern other medical centers, the lobbying groups that favor abortion have mounted a full-force attack on these common-sense safety measures. The question everyone should be asking is why?
For years now, clinics that provide services in addition to abortion have escaped safety regulations that are applicable to other outpatient surgical centers through a technical loophole in the current Virginia law. Despite the fact these centers provide abortions, which are undeniably serious medical procedures, many are able to classify themselves as physicians' offices, escaping the most basic regulations that apply to other outpatient surgical centers.
The regulations now before Virginia's Board of Health are not, in any way, restrictive of a woman's choice to have an abortion. Rather, their obvious focus is on protecting the women who make that choice. For instance, the regulations require abortion facilities to implement an infection prevention plan; to have arrangements in place with a local hospital in the event that an emergency requires patient hospitalization; to ensure that abortions are performed only by Virginia-licensed physicians; and to obtain the patient's informed written consent prior to performing abortions.
Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortion services, advertises its mission as "fight[ing] for common-sense policies that promote women's health" and providing "safe, reliable health care." And yet, Planned Parenthood, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and others - organizations that claim to be concerned about the welfare of women - have engaged in a full-frontal assault on the passage of these regulations.
While inexplicably incongruent with their professed mission, the battle these groups wage against clinic safety regulations comes as no surprise. It has played out again and again over the past several years in the hearing room of the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee, as legislators who truly care about women's health have repeatedly tried to pass similar regulations. So far, with an assist from the pro-abortion majority of this committee, the self-proclaimed protectors of women's health have consistently defeated the regulations that protect everyone else's health in other medical settings.
I am aware of two stated justifications for these pro-abortion groups' opposition to clinic safety regulations. First, they claim that a large percentage of abortion centers will be forced to close their doors if they are subjected to safety requirements. Second, they claim that abortion will be made prohibitively expensive if centers must comply with the regulations. These excuses are unsatisfactory. The first claim only highlights the necessity for the regulations: It is, in effect, an admission that current conditions at abortion clinics are inadequate.
With regard to the second claim, a little dose of real numbers exposes it to be a fear-mongering exaggeration. In a legal challenge to remarkably similar regulations in South Carolina (a challenge that the abortion clinics lost), the evidence showed that the estimated increase in patient cost would range from only $23 to $75 per abortion. The cost of enhancing patient safety amounts to no more than the approximate cost of dinner and a movie for two.
The abortion lobby's alleged desire for abortion to be "safe, legal and rare" is thus called into serious question. If these groups are to be judged by their actions in real life, one can only conclude that their overriding goal is to make this serious, dangerous, life-changing procedure as quick, easy and unregulated as we, the electorate, will allow.
Planned Parenthood claims to be America's "most trusted provider of reproductive health care." In light of the obvious incongruity between the abortion industry's proclaimed mission of promoting women's health and safety on the one hand, and its battle against basic safety requirements for abortion centers on the other hand, one is forced to wonder whether any of this alleged trust is warranted.
Please consider contacting the board of health to give your opinion on this issue.
Rita M. Dunaway, an attorney with The Rutherford Institute, lives in Harrisonburg, and serves on the Virginia Christian Alliance Board of Advisors
Sanctity of Human Life