Restricting Access, Any Way Possible

By Rachel Walden — August 25, 2010

Last night, talk show host Rachel Maddow discussed tactics used by anti-choice activities to restrict women’s access to abortion. She focused on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who has issued an opinion indicating that the state may impose additional restrictions on providers of first trimester abortions, including allowing the Board of Health to regulate them as “hospitals.” An article in the Roanoke Times explains:

Cuccinelli’s opinion notes that health centers specializing in reproductive services are characterized as physicians’ offices that are exempt from state hospital licensure requirements. Forcing those facilities to meet hospital standards would bring more demanding requirements for space, equipment and staffing that abortion rights supporters argue would limit access to legal, first-trimester abortions.

Maddow spoke to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia President Tarina Keene about what this could mean for abortion access in that state. Keene indicated that such regulations could potentially close 17 of the state’s 21 abortion clinics (making our past discussions of the difficulties provider face integrating abortion into their office practices all the more relevant). The organization has issued a statement arguing that:

This move has nothing to do with upholding the law or protecting women’s health, and everything to do with ideology and politics. Attorney General Cuccinelli is trying to accomplish through brute force of executive power what he couldn’t accomplish through the democratic process in his time as a State Senator – restricting women’s access to reproductive healthcare by shutting down abortion providers. These targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP) laws have nothing to do with safety and have everything to do with ideology.

Those who support the change will inevitably ask, “Don’t you want women to be as safe as possible when they have abortions?” Of course pro-choice women’s health and reproductive rights advocates want abortion to be safe. But this seemingly innocuous question ignores the fact that those pushing for such changes are working to restrict abortion access, rather than responding to any demonstrated need for improved facilities.

As Keene observes in the interview, “They have hijacked the language, and, unfortunately, what they’ve also done is make people feel like abortion is dangerous and it’s also scary.”

In reality, the data shows that legal abortion in the first trimester is very safe — far safer than continuing a pregnancy.

View the full interview (with transcript) below:

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