RICHMOND, Va. — Noting that many centers in the Commonwealth of Virginia in which abortions are performed have heretofore been treated as regular doctors' offices and not subject to basic licensing requirements, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute are urging the Virginia Board of Health to ensure the protection of women undergoing abortion through the adoption of appropriate regulations and licensing requirements.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized what every one of us really knows to be true—abortion is inherently different from any other type of medical procedure," said John W. Whitehead, founder and president of the Institute. "Requiring abortion centers to comply with the same kinds of regulations as other outpatient medical centers is really a matter of common sense."
Outpatient abortion clinics are defined as outpatient hospitals under Virginia law. However, abortion facilities that limit their practice to reproductive services often characterize themselves as “physicians' offices,” whereby they are legally exempt from licensure requirements that apply to other outpatient hospitals. This year, however, the Virginia General Assembly closed this loophole by passing legislation requiring the Board of Health to implement licensure requirements and safety regulations for facilities where five or more first-trimester abortions are performed per month. The Rutherford Institute contends that in light of the serious, invasive nature of abortion and the well-recognized state interest in promoting public health and welfare, the Commonwealth of Virginia has both the authority and an obligation to its citizens to adopt reasonable, common-sense regulations such as those currently proposed.
Federal courts have repeatedly affirmed that states have a legitimate interest in regulating abortion clinics more stringently than other medical facilities because of the unique nature of the procedure. Abortion is also known to carry a multitude of significant health risks, including permanent damage to reproductive and other vital organs, dysfunction of the cardiovascular or respiratory system, internal bleeding or hemorrhaging, embolism, and allergic reactions. In addition to the more immediate complications of abortion, voluminous studies prove that abortion carries many long-term health risks.
In weighing in on the Board of Health's proposed regulations for abortion facilities, Institute attorneys noted that the regulations are "in substantial conformity" with those upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and consistent with the United States Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence.