Virginia TRAP Law Signed, But Is That Really the End?

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Virginia TRAP Law Signed, But Is That Really the End?

Robin Marty

The governor may have signed the bill into law, but activists aren't ready to accept defeat.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have had endless meetings, reshuffled the state board of health, and ignored multiple public input sessions in an effort to push through a bill meant to close most of the abortion clinics in the state. Now that McDonnell has finally signed the bill into law, that should be the end of the line for activists opposing the new rule, which will require clinics that provide abortions to rebuild their facilities under the same guidelines as hospitals. But one woman thinks she may still have a way to stop the new regulations from going into effect.

Molly Taylor Vick, a targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) bill opponent, has petitioned the state, arguing that since hospitals are often grandfathered in when new regulations are proposed, refusing to allow reproductive health clinics to do the same is an inconsistent standard. She believes that existing abortion providers should be allowed to operate under the old rules, with the new standards only applying to new structures, or all hospitals should have to be upgraded and made compliant with every regulation on the books.

“The petitioner requests that the State Board of Health (the Board) amend its regulations concerning general building and physical plant requirements for hospitals, contained in the Regulations of Licensure of Hospitals in Virginia (12 VAC5-410-650.) (the Regulations), on the grounds that the regulation conflicts with the provisions of §32.1-127.001 of the Code of Virginia,” reads Vick’s petition to the board of health, which was filed on May 6 and already has over 50 comments.

The question is a fair one, because the board of health at first agreed that existing clinics should be grandfathered in. As a result of that ruling, Cuccinelli refused to certify the regulations, sending it back to the board, which, after resignations in protest of Cuccinelli’s overreach, was filled with even more anti-choice members in order to ensure passage of the original restrictions.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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Just like the abortion providers in the state, if hospitals were not able to be grandfathered into the most recent set of new building regulations, a majority of them built prior to 2005 would be forced to close or update at great expense. Vick’s request is that the rules be applied equitably.

Oppose TRAP, an activist group of which Vick is a member, reiterates:

If existing hospitals CANNOT be grandfathered in under new regulations, this brings into question the legal status of every facility built prior to 2005, many of which will now be forced to undergo the same costly architectural renovations as abortion clinics. This could result in hospitals across the state closing their doors.

If existing hospitals CAN be legally grandfathered as they always have been, then they CAN be legally grandfathered today, and Cuccinelli overstepped his legal and professional authority by refusing to certify those approved regulations. He also overstepped ethical boundaries by threatening to withhold representation if the Board of Health was sued.

VDH must either act to amend hospital regulations to require current construction code of existing facilities or readdress the issue of grandfathering as applied to abortion clinic facilities.

The public comment period for the new petition is through May 26.