Health centers that provide first-trimester abortions must meet building standards designated for new hospitals or close by Spring 2014.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers (TRAP) law in 2011. The restrictions require first-trimester abortion providers to meet the same regulations as hospitals. Regulations drafted by the Virginia Board of Health and enacted in 2012 required existing abortion providers to adhere to the design and construction standards for building new hospitals, including specific requirements around the width of hallways, the number of parking spaces, and style of sink handles. Never before have these design standards been retroactively applied to any other health facility. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association opposed the TRAP regulations approved by the Virginia Board of Health.

When the clinic-shutdown law passed the General Assembly in 2011, there were 21 first trimester abortion providers in Virginia. Today there are 14.

Senate Bill 924, sponsored by Senator Ryan McDougle (R – Mechanicsville) was amended by the House of Delegates to include language from Delegate Kathy Byron (R – Lynchburg) regulating abortion providers. It passed the House 63-34 and the Senate 20-20, with the tie vote broken by Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling.

When Governor Terry McAuliffe took office in 2014, he instructed the Board of Health to review the TRAP restrictions and started the process of repealing them. This was a long review process aided by the June 2016 Supreme Court  ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that TRAP laws like the ones we have in Virginia are unconstitutional.  

In order to bring Virginia law into compliance with the United States Constitution, the Board of Health voted in October 2016 to fully repeal the unconstitutional TRAP restrictions. Now women’s health clinics are no longer forced to meet medically unnecessary, hospital-like standards in order to provide vital services to the women who need them – and Virginia women, in particular women of color and low income women, have more access to the health care they need.

Sources: Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-127SB924, 2011; Virginia Department of Health; Letter from Stephen H. Bendheim, Chair, Virginia Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Holly S. Puritz, Vice-chair, and Christian A. Chisholm, Secretary-Treasurer to Karen Remley, Commissioner of Health, regarding proposed regulations on abortion facilities, September 14, 2011; American Public Health Association, Opposition to Requirement for Hospital Admitting Privileges and Transfer Agreements for Abortion Providers, Policy Statement, May 2012. 

Stand Up For Abortion Access

Women who have decided to access an abortion should feel safe and supported, not face shame and barriers.