Virginia Board Of Health Passes Strictest Abortion Clinic Regulations In The Nation
Posted: 9/15/11 04:29 PM ET, Huffington Post
The regulations, commissioned by the state legislature and written by the Virginia Department of Health, are largely unrelated to patient health and safety. They would treat abortion clinics as if they are hospitals if the clinics provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month and would enforce architectural design standards that will be almost impossible for most clinics to meet.
For instance, a clinic must have 5-foot-wide hallways, 8-foot-wide areas outside of procedure rooms, specific numbers of toilets and types of sinks and all of the latest requirements for air circulation flow and electrical wiring. Each clinic must also have a parking spot for every bed, despite the fact that first-trimester abortions don’t require an overnight stay. Further, Department of Health employees will be allowed to enter an abortion facility at any time without notice or identification.
Virginia Board of Health member Jim Edmundson tried to introduce a number of amendments on Thursday that would lessen the severity of the clinic restrictions and give some facilities a chance to comply. However, all but one of the amendments were rejected without a vote. For instance, he tried to distinguish between first-trimester surgical abortions and first-trimester medication abortions, so that the regulations would only apply to surgical procedures, but the amendment was not even seconded.
“The board is not even seconding proposed amendments being offered,” said Patrick Hurd, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Virginia, who observed the comment and voting process in Richmond on Thursday. “They’re so intimidated by the presence of the attorney general, they’re not even allowing these things to come up for a vote.”
Health advocates say they are worried that women in Virginia could lose all access to abortions as a result of the new rules, which are scheduled go into effect by Jan. 1.
“Right now, none of our facilities would be in compliance with these regulations,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, which has five clinics in the state that provide abortions.
Hurd told HuffPost that his one clinic that provides abortions would have to undergo “substantial and costly renovations” to comply with the new rules.
“I’m just amazed by their unrealistic and draconian views of how we’re gonna transition from a doctor’s office that provides abortions to a surgical center,” he said. “For us, the regulations are gonna be unduly burdensome and onerous, and they don’t reflect what’s necessary for patient safety. For others, it sets the stage for the closure of some high-quality health care centers.”
One major unintended consequence of these regulations is that if Planned Parenthood clinics and other health clinics that provide abortions are forced to shut down, they will be taking all of their other services with them, such as affordable pap smears, breast exams and birth control for low-income men and women.
State Sen. Ryan McDougle (R), the sponsor of the bill who directed the health department to draft the regulations, said the purpose of the bill “is to make sure that all medical procedures are done in a safe manner.” However, there are no other types of outpatient facilities that are being regulated as extensively as abortion providers, and according to the Virginia Department of Health, the first-trimester abortion procedure is already as safe as it possibly can be. Between 1999 and 2009, there was only one abortion-related death, compared with 11 deaths from pregnancy and childbirth in the year 2009 alone.
“It’s just utterly ridiculous, the regulations have nothing to do with patient health and safety,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “This is just an overreach to the nth degree.”
The temporary regulations are being sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell for review. If he approves them, they will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, for one year, after which they will be replaced by permanent regulations.
18 August 2011 Last updated at 21:51 ET, BBC News
Virginia executes Jerry Jackson amid death-drug row
The US state of Virginia has executed a convicted murderer and rapist by lethal injection, despite objections from the drug manufacturer.
Jerry Jackson, 30, was put to death on Thursday evening for the murder of 88-year-old Ruth Phillips.
A shortage of drugs used in past US executions has forced Virginia authorities to rely on an epilepsy drug manufactured by Danish firm Lundbeck.
Lundbeck has said it opposes the “distressing misuse” of its product.
Asked if he had any last words, Jackson shook his head and said “no”, reports the Associated Press news agency.
Difficulty obtaining drugs
The drugs that were used to execute Jackson at the Greensville Correction Center in Jarrat, Virginia, were obtained before Lundbeck imposed strict controls on the distribution of pentobarbital, a drug used to treat severe epilepsy.
The company has strongly objected to its product’s use in capital punishment, and has restricted distribution in an attempt to keep it out of prison death chambers.
“We’re in the business to improve people’s lives, so the use of pentobarbital to end people’s lives contradicts everything that we’re in business to do,” Matt Flesch, a US spokesman for Lundbeck, told the BBC.
Jackson was convicted and condemned to death in 2002 on two counts of capital murder, rape and other charges relating to the death of Ms Phillips.
Prosecutors said he climbed in her bathroom window during an attempted burglary.
After she awoke and confronted him, he sexually assaulted and killed her.
His execution came amid a global effort by drug manufacturers to prevent their products from being used in US executions – whether for moral, regulatory or public relations concerns.
Amid the difficulty obtaining execution drugs, US states have had to experiment with different ways to kill prisoners without violating the US constitution’s bar on “cruel and unusual punishments”, analysts say.
Virginia, like many of the 34 out of 50 US states which allows capital punishment, uses a “cocktail” of three drugs to execute condemned prisoners.
If all goes according to plan, the first drug renders the prisoner unconscious, a second paralyses the prisoner (thus masking signs the first drug worked or did not work) and a third drug stops the heart.
“A lot hinges on the first drug,” Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a research organisation, told the BBC.
“It causes unconsciousness, and if that doesn’t work well, the next drugs are very painful.”
For years, the states used a drug called sodium thiopental in the first stage, but in 2010 the drug’s only US manufacturer, Hospira, announced it was halting production.
Some US states turned to Dream Pharma, a British firm operating in Acton, West London, for sodium thiopental, until a ban on exports was imposed in December 2010.
Amid trouble obtaining sodium thiopental, the states this year have turned to pentobarbital.
So far in 2011, US states have executed 23 prisoners using that drug, prompting strong condemnation from Lundbeck.
While the drug, sold under the brand name Nembutal, comprises less than 1% of the company’s sales, Lundbeck said it declined to stop production because doctors it had surveyed said they would have trouble treating severe epilepsy without it.
But the company last month announced restrictions on the drug’s distribution in an effort to keep it from being shipped to prisons in US states that practise capital punishment.
Under that programme, Lundbeck will review orders for pentobarbital and deny them to prisons in capital punishment states.
Purchasers will have to sign a form affirming the drug is for their own use and will not be used for capital punishment and that they will not re-distribute the drug without the company’s approval.
“While the company has never sold the product directly to prisons and therefore can’t make guarantees, we are confident that our new distribution program will play a substantial role in restricting prisons’ access to Nembutal for misuse as part of lethal injection,” chief executive Ulf Wiinberg said.
The company has also sent letters to 16 states that have used or have said they would use pentobarbital in lethal injection expressing their opposition and concern, Mr Flesch said.
Cain apologizes after meeting with Muslim leaders
Updated 14h 6m ago USA Today
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Herman Cain is apologizing to Muslim leaders for vitriolic remarks he made about Islam while campaigning for the presidential nomination.
On Wednesday, Cain met with four Muslim leaders in Sterling, Va. He said in a statement later he was “truly sorry” for comments that may have “betrayed” his commitment to the Constitution and the religious freedom it guarantees.
He also acknowledged that Muslims, “like all Americans,” have the right to practice freely their faith and that most Muslim Americans are peaceful and patriotic.