‘Sham process’: Virginia health board nixes abortion safety standards
HENRICO, Virginia, October 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The Virginia State Board of Health voted 11-4 on Monday to reduce health and safety standards for abortion centers, including removing the requirement that abortion facilities meet the CDC’s minimum standards for preventing infections.
"The $1 billion abortion industry got what it paid for[:] politically motivated protection from Terry McAuliffe," Victoria Cobb, President of the Virginia-based Family Foundation, said, referencing the Democratic governor's campaign promises to the abortion lobby. "Despite overwhelming evidence uncovered by inspections of abortion centers, including bloody, unsterilized medical equipment, doctors and nurses not washing hands or re-gloving between patients, untrained and unaccountable staffing, and hundreds of other deficiencies, the Board of Health, populated by those who passed the Governor’s pro-abortion litmus test, did as they were ordered and watered down health and safety standards. During this sham process demanded by the Governor[,] the Board also violated the clear law of Virginia regarding the transparency and ethics of the adoption of regulations."
Some of the 20 regulations the Board of Health scrapped or gutted include the requirement that abortion facilities have transfer agreements with local hospitals so that they may provide continuity of care in case of an emergency and the National Abortion Federation-recommended provision of offering women post-abortive counseling resources. Monday's decision also Virginia means abortion facilities will no longer be required to follow hospital-like building codes that are designed to accomodate gurneys and other emergency equipment.
"Having adequate space for emergency personnel would seem a reasonable safety feature," said Cobb.
The Board also "granted the Commissioner of Health unparalleled and unlimited power to ignore what health standards for abortion centers are left through 'permanent' variances," said Cobb. "Essentially, the Commissioner can unilaterally decide if any safety standard is unnecessary and cease to enforce them."
"By the time the Board was done eviscerating the standards, when the Department of Health sends public health inspectors into abortion centers – if it even does – they won’t know what to look for or what standards to hold the facilities accountable to, making it a political farce," continuned Cobb.
In a statement thanking the Board of Health, McAuliffe called the safety regulations "onerous" and "designed solely to reduce or outright remove access to essential reproductive health services for women across the Commonwealth."
Cianti Stewart-Reid, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said the Board of Health put "women's health ahead of politics" by nixing the safety and sanitation regulations.
"The [procedural] actions of the Board that violate state law and the Board’s disregard for the clear intent of the General Assembly have opened Virginia to costly litigation," Cobb concluded. "This fight is far from over."
In 2012, health inspectors recorded 48 pages of health and safety violations at the now-closed Amethyst Health Center for Women in Manassas. These included multiple violations of infection prevention protocols, dirty facility conditions, soiled linens and recovery recliners, and the failure of staff to change gloves between patients.
Virginia's now-defunct busiest abortion center would have benefitted from the relaxed regulations, as court records reveal it frequently left individuals vomitting in the hallways of its shared building rather than care for them.
In April, Virginia health inspectors suspended the license of an abortion facility run by Steven Chase Brigham after discovering staff failed to clean and sterilize instruments between abortion procedures, employees sometimes failed to wash their hands and, in one case, an employee unclogged a toilet before holding a patient's hand during a surgical abortion.