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Advocates Deliver 4,844 Comments Urging Health Commissioner to Keep Women’s Health Centers Open

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From ProgressVA:

Public comments part of review of burdensome and medically unnecessary health center restrictions 

Richmond, VA – Women’s health advocates delivered 4844 public comments opposing the burdensome and medically unnecessary women’s health center restrictions to the Health Commissioner on Tuesday. As part of a review of the Targeted Restrictions of Abortion Providers (TRAP), the Health Commissioner and Board of Health are collecting public comments through July 31st. Included in the comments were letters from medical professionals that see the regulations as medically unnecessary and a barrier to women receiving comprehensive care.

“As a physician, I am committed to patient health and safety. Throughout my career, I have treated thousands of women and believe all patients deserve safe, high quality care,” said Dr. Wendy Klein, a Richmond internist, professor emeritus and national expert in Women’s Health. “Three years ago, Virginia appointed medical experts to recommend regulations based on sound and safe medical practice. However, the Board of Health ignored those recommendations and instead approved arbitrary restrictions designed to shut down women’s health centers that perform abortions. No other outpatient facility has been targeted in this manner. Physicians and the majority of Virginians agree: regulations must be based on the best medical standards and practices, not political maneuvering. We ask Dr. Levine to rescind and rewrite the TRAP restrictions, and to allow health decisions to be made in private by patients with their doctors. Politicians should not be making medical decisions.”

Advocates are asking for the restrictions to be rescinded and rewritten in a process that relies on medical evidence and best practices, not politics and ideology. The current restrictions are designed to shut down women’s health centers, which provide comprehensive reproductive health care, like cancer screenings and birth control, as well as safe, legal first-trimester abortion, to women across the Commonwealth.

“I use birth control to manage a medical condition, and because I am not ready to be a parent right now,” said Amanda Spence, a Richmond-area woman who attended the comment delivery and relies on Planned Parenthood for reproductive health services. “I am unemployed and not eligible for the insurance under the Affordable Care Act, since I fall into the coverage gap and Virginia refuses to expand Medicaid. I have tried to go to sliding scale clinics offered by the state, only to be turned away in tears because I live with my father-in-law and they considered his income mine.  I rely on the Planned Parenthood center in Richmond for the affordable birth control I need.  If Planned Parenthood and other Virginia women’s health centers were forced to close due to these restrictions, I would not be able to access these critical medical services.”

Randi Colyera Richmond area Planned Parenthood patient and volunteer, also attended the comment delivery.“I have health insurance but I choose to come to Planned Parenthood because I found out they offer a wide variety of health care services, including family planning, primary care, and cancer screenings,” said Colyer. “I feel comfortable with the doctors and the staff and have accessed primary care in addition to gynecological care. If women’s health care centers in Virginia were to close because of TRAP, I would lose access to a place where I feel comfortable and well-taken care of.”

Virginians can continue to submit public comments through July 31st online at http://act.progressva.org/sign/scraptrap/?t=2&akid=1507.1836.1QzQPv Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine must decide by October 1st if the TRAP restrictions will be amended, rescinded and rewritten, or left as is. The restrictions apply to 18 women’s health centers across Virginia that perform five or more first trimester abortions a month. Two centers have closed their doors, and one stopped providing abortion services, since the restrictions went into effect.