Update: The Senate accepted the amended House bill. The vote was 20-20, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote. Gov. Bob McDonnell says he favors it.
Senate Bill 924 was a noncontroversial bill, proposed by a Republican state senator, to require the state Board of Health to devise and issue regulations setting minimum standards for infection prevention, disaster preparedness, and security at hospitals, nursing homes, and certified nursing facilities.
The sponsor was Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, R-Mechanicsville. It had no fiscal impact, and no opposition. It passed a Senate committee unanimously, the Senate unanimously, a House committee unanimously, and then it got to the House floor.
Now it’s become 2011′s sneak attack on legal abortion in Virginia.
For purposes of this paragraph, facilities in which 5 or more first trimester abortions per month are performed shall be classified as a category of “hospital.”
Did you get that? With that change, every abortion clinic in the state would be reclassified as a “hospital.” And because of that, most of them would have to close. The amended bill passed the House Monday, 67-32. Here’s the vote tally. (More after the jump)
. . .any facility that performs 5 or more first trimester abortion per month would effectively have to adhere to architectural and other standards required for hospitals. This means, for example, standards for the size of parking lots adequate for the number of hospital beds (that don’t exist), and architectural changes such as widening hallways to allow two gurneys to pass at the same time.
In other words, things that are not needed in a clinic setting where procedures are among the safest of any outpatient procedure performed anywhere.
In other words, pure politics.
Clinics that owned their own buildings would have to make expensive and unnecessary alterations to stay open. Those that rent might have to close for good. An official with the Virginia chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) estimates that 17 of 21 abortions clinics in the commonwealth would have to close their doors for good. But not necessarily the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Roanoke.
This is reminiscent of a legal opinion by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli last year that seeks to accomplish much the same thing, without legislation.
The bill won’t become law unless the Senate agrees; in the past it’s defeated similar attempts to regulate abortion clinics the same way as hospitals. But you never know exactly how things are going to go down in the General Assembly’s three-day rush to adjournment.
I have many mixed feeling about abortion. But if this was something Byron wanted to do, she didn’t have to try to sneak this through in the waning days of the legislative session.
She could have sponsored a bill exactly for this purpose, straight up. That would have been the honest way. She didn’t bother.
Instead she’s spent her time trying to enact a law removing a requirement that insurance companies cover optional HPV vaccines for young girls. (That anti-cancer prevention bill appears dead, thank goodness).