Pro-choice, pro-life supporters face off for bills in General Assembly

Pro-choice, pro-life supporters face off for bills in General Assembly

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A battle played out at the General Assembly on Tuesday to try to repeal hospital-like regulations on abortion clinics in Virginia and over funding for Planned Parenthood.

About 100 pro-choicers turned out to appeal to legislators, but they lost.

In October, the Virginia Board of Health voted to scrap the hospital-style building codes for all abortion clinics, saying they were unconstitutional. Tuesday was the debate over a bill to take it a step further - to declassify clinics that perform more than five abortions as hospitals. It's aimed at repealing the law requiring abortion clinics to meet hospital standards.

It was a packed room, a sea of pro-choice supporters wearing pink, with signs and a message for a House Health, Welfare and Institutions Subcommittee.

"These restrictions are not designed to promote safety, but are designed to close clinics that provide abortion services," said Dr. Serina Floyd, Medical Director for Planned Parenthood.

Women who have used Planned Parenthood services shared their personal stories.

"I'm standing here because I want you to see a face of a person who 40-some years ago used Planned Parenthood and am glad they were there for me."

The committee asked how many abortion clinics have closed because of the regulations.

"We know for a fact that at least two exclusively because of these regulations, but there obviously have been...we've gone down from 21 clinics to 14," said Gail Deady with the ACLU of Virginia.

But pro-life supporters argued these regulations are aimed at keeping women safe.

"In the past five years, the abortion rate in Virginia has d ropped over 30 percent, equaling nearly 15,000 fewer abortions in that time frame," said Victoria Cobb with The Family Foundation. "For the abortions industry, that's a loss of $6 million in revenue, and that is the reason they want to remove accountability. I urge you to vote no on this legislation."

In the end, the Committee laid the bill on the table, killing it for the year.

Up next, the committee voted in favor of a bill that would essentially cut funds to Planned Parenthood. The bill would prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from giving funds or contracts to healthcare providers that don't qualify for matching Medicaid funds.

Delegate Cline proposed a similar bill last year. It passed the House and Senate, but the Governor vetoed it. We'll keep you posted on what happens this year.

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