Ruling calls into question the constitutionality of Virginia’s own medically-unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers

In a 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt today, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down medically-unnecessary restrictions imposed by the state of Texas that forced more than half of that state’s abortion providers to close.

In Virginia, as in Texas, anti-abortion state legislators passed a law designed to cut off access through medically-irrelevant restrictions, singling out first-trimester abortion providers from other outpatient health care facilities for hospital-style regulation. The Virginia Board of Health is currently considering amendments to these regulations that would make them better reflect the medical reality of first-trimester abortion care. A current 60-day public comment period in this process ends July 1.

Janice Craft, J.D., Director of Policy and Government Affairs, said:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has definitively stated that no restriction on abortion providers can pass constitutional muster unless it offers medical benefits to women sufficient to justify the burdens it imposes on abortion access. While the Supreme Court’s decision does not have an immediate effect on the fourteen remaining women’s health centers that provide abortion in Virginia, it raises serious questions about Virginia laws restricting access to abortion and the legitimacy of the resulting regulations. At the very least, the Supreme Court has made it clear that any regulation made by the Virginia Board of Health must be based on medical evidence and best practices around abortion care – not on a political agenda to shut down as many clinics as possible.”

Executive Director Tarina Keene said:

“Today’s decision is a major victory for women across the United States, with the court affirming a woman’s right to make own decisions about abortion, regardless of where she lives. The fight to protect abortion access nationwide and here in Virginia is far from over, however.

“The Supreme Court recognized what we have seen over our past five years of fighting targeted regulation of abortion providers in Virginia: These laws were never about protecting women. They are part of an ideological agenda to cut off safe, legal abortion access in any way possible and undermine women’s rights and dignity.

“We will continue our fight to protect abortion access in Virginia from medically-irrelevant, politically-motivated restrictions like those just struck down in Texas. The court’s decision reminds us how critical the outcomes of both the 2016 national election and Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial election will be for the future of abortion rights and access in our state. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our thousands of member-activists are mobilizing Virginia’s pro-choice majority to elect Hillary Clinton this year, and starting our work now to elect a pro-choice governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general again in 2017.”

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Contact: Tarina Keene, tkeene@naralva.org

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