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Clinics Brace for Tighter Rules

May 11, 2011

By Erica Terrini and Jillian Quattlebaum
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – By September, the Virginia Board of Health plans to announce the regulations that must be met by clinics that provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month.

The clinics then will have until January to satisfy the requirements – or shut their doors.

Courtney Jones, manager of grassroots organizing for the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, said there are three hospital classification standards that clinics might have to meet. For instance, the board could require clinics to:

* Install hospital-mandated equipment such as crash carts and oxygen-producing machines.

* Renovate their facilities by expanding hallways, building nourishment centers to feed patients, modifying entrances and exits and installing public telephones.

* Expand and standardize the size of operating rooms and post-operation rooms.

In pre-operation labs, clinics would have to add a reclining chair for drawing blood, Jones said. That can be a problem for clinics that are tight on space and have “just no room for reclining chairs,” she said.

The law also will require clinics to meet hospital staffing regulations. That means having a doctor on call 24 hours a day.

To appease the Board of Health mandates, Jones said, Planned Parenthood will have to re-prioritize its spending. She said this may take funds away from preventive health care for women.

Abortions represent a small fraction of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. The bulk of the group’s services involve Pap smears, breast exams, contraception, education and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Officials at the Virginia Department of Health hope to have a draft of the proposed abortion clinic regulations by Sept. 1. The Board of Health would vote on the rules during its scheduled Sept. 15 meeting.

The regulations then would go to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his review. Under this timetable, the rules would take effect Jan. 1.

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