First-Person Account of Hearing That Passed Most Burdensome Clinic Regulations in Country

By Corrina Beall- Political Associate Feminist Majority PAC and former president, Richmond NOW

James Edmondson Jr. was the lone advocate for reproductive justice on the Board of Health Thursday, September 15,, as the Board voted 12-1 to adopt the most burdensome regulations on abortion providers in the nation.

Edmondson cast the single vote against enacting the regulations after
three hours of battling for a series of amendments to relax the
regulations. One amendment would have exempted clinics performing
only medical abortions and others were intended to protect patients’
privacy. All but two of his more minor amendments to the regulations
were unsuccessful.

“I think access will wind up being at risk in many parts of the state
because of this, and that’s too bad,” Edmondson told reporters after
the vote. Edmondson said he believes restricting access to abortion is
the primary aim of the General Assembly-mandated regulations.

Lawmakers passed legislation last winter requiring licensure and
extensive regulation of abortion clinics. The Attorney General’s
office and Gov. McDonnell must sign off on the temporary regulations, which
will remain in effect while permanent ones are developed. Edmondson
expressed that he is not optimistic that the permanent regulations
will be any fairer to women.

A packed boardroom of over 100 concerned private citizens witnessed
the vote on abortion regulations after a heated 90 minute period of
public comment. These are some of the afternoon’s highlights:

Nurse Practitioner Gail Francis, who opened Virginia’s first abortion
clinic in the same year as Roe v. Wade in 1973, said her experiences
before abortion was legalized as a nurse in the ER “put me on a
journey to make sure no woman senselessly dies from this simple
medical procedure.”

Rosemary Codding, veteran abortion rights activist and founder and
director of Patient Services at Falls Church Healthcare Center,
challenged the Board, “it is never the wrong time to do the right
thing”.

Virginia League of Planned Parenthood spokesman Tom Sheilds testified
as a father, telling the Board, “regulations intrude on the rights of
Americans, including the rights of my three young daughters.”

Virginia Delegate Charnielle Herring, chair of the Virginia
Legislature’s Reproductive Health Caucus, called for a
depoliticization of provider regulations: “what is important is that
we have medically accurate and scientifically sound regulations.”

Jill Abby of Richmond Medical Center for Women told the Board that the
regulation’s handling of both patient and provider privacy was
unacceptable. “These confidentiality issues conflict with medical
ethics and federal law,” she said to the packed Board room.

Activist Eric Scott asked Board members of regulations characterized
as the strictest in the nation, “is this what you want Virginia to be
known for?”

Youth activist Kate Bowler told the Board, “I think it’s important for
you to see my face and know that as a young woman of reproductive age,
I am against these regulations.”

Feminist Majority Political Associate Corrina Beall said, “the young
women of Virginia rely on these services” including testing for sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, cancer screenings and contraception counselling and provision. “The families of Virginia
rely on these services and my generation relies on these services. Do
not take them away.”

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