Sunday, February 19, 2012
Point/Counterpoint: Don't let women's health get caught in a 'TRAP'
In our weekly Point/Counterpoint feature, we invite knowledgeable people (usually two) to express their views on a current topic. After reading each other's columns, our guests then write rebuttals on the RoundTable blog, where readers can join in the conversation.
Recent Point/Counterpoint essays
- The current rule is fair, favoring neither side
- Fair trials arise when evidence is available to both sides
- Let's invest in real solutions
From the RoundTable blog
In March2011, Gov.Bob McDonnell signed Senate Bill 924 into law. This law directed the Virginia Board of Health to adopt regulations requiring women's health centers that provide five or more first-trimester abortions per month be classified as a category of hospital.
That means women's health centers in Virginia will now be subject to burdensome and unnecessary new regulations that could limit access to vital reproductive health care and will only hurt women.
These politically motivated "TRAP" laws — short for Targeted Regulations against Abortion Providers — single out doctors who provide abortion care from those who don't, even though abortions are no different from other outpatient procedures that do not trigger these kinds of unneeded regulations.
TRAP laws limit women's access to abortions by either forcing women's health centers to close because they cannot possibly meet the new requirements or by driving up the cost of abortion procedures so much that some women can no longer afford them.
In short, TRAP laws have nothing to do with promoting the safe delivery of health care for women and everything to do with some legislators' desire to restrict Virginians' access to abortions.
Women's health centers in Virginia have been providing safe, accessible, comprehensive health care for more than 30years. Overregulation of the kind found in TRAP laws doesn't just restrict access to abortions; they also affect a wide range of preventive reproductive health care services, including life-saving cancer screenings, family planning and STD testing and treatment.
Under intense pressure from the attorney general's office, the Virginia Board of Health ignored the advice of its own medical experts and voted on Sept.15, 2011, to approve temporary TRAP regulations. Now that the governor has signed the temporary regulations for women's health centers, the Board of Health has entered the permanent regulatory process, which will determine what regulations are placed on women's health centers when the temporary regulations expire.
The most onerous of the temporary regulations requires existing women's health centers to come into architectural compliance with three chapters of a manual called the 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities. However, these guidelines are intended to apply only to new construction, not to existing facilities, and they place extensive, burdensome requirements on building structures that are unrelated to the services women's health centers provide.
Although mandated to pass regulations of some kind, the Board of Health now enters the critical period in which it has the opportunity to create carefully considered rules for women's clinics that are medically appropriate and that rely on the advice of health care professionals, not the mandates of politicians opposed to reproductive freedom.