Va. health officials weigh new rules that advocates hope will expand rural abortion access

Va. health officials weigh new rules that advocates hope will expand rural abortion access
New regulations under review distinguish surgical and medication-only abortions for the first time, exempting providers of medication-only abortions from some requirements imposed under legislation signed in 2011.

The Virginia Board of Health is considering rolling back strict rules surrounding certain types of abortion, a move advocates hope would expand access to the procedure, particularly in rural parts of the state.

New regulations under review distinguish surgical and medication-only abortions for the first time, exempting providers of medication-only abortions from some requirements imposed under legislation signed in 2011 by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, which advocates for abortion access call TRAP laws, or Targeted Restrictions of Abortion Providers.

“We have these big abortion deserts in Southwest Virginia and the western half of the state where there are no abortion providers and it would be hard for a new provider to move in … and follow all the TRAP laws,” said Galina Varchena, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “So we’re hoping this will mean that some independent providers will come in and start providing medication-only abortions.”

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.