Thursday, September 15, 2011

Virginia Approves Restrictive Clinic Regulations

Well, this is just crappy: today the Virginia Board of Health voted 12-1 to uphold new restrictions on the the state's abortion clinics. The decision followed a standing-room-only meeting to hear comments on the regulations, which will place hospital-level operating and building requirements on all 21 abortion clinics in the state.

Proponents of the regulations claim that they will make abortions safer for women, although the procedure is extremely safe already. Approximately 26,000 abortions are performed in Virginia hospitals and clinics every year; between 1999 and 2009, one woman died as a result of complications. Compare that to the eleven women that died in 2009 alone as a result of pregnancy and childbirth complications. Not to mention that clinics in Virginia only perform first-trimester abortions, which are widely regarded as the safest kind of abortion to perform.

I don't know, I'm not really seeing how mandating covered entryways and high ceilings will ensure that an already-safe procedure will become even safer. But if these regulations are so necessary, then why aren't other stand-alone clinics that provide invasive surgical services, like eye surgery or plastic surgery, being held to the same standards?

Interestingly enough, a majority of Virginians are in favor of abortion: 50 percent feel that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent do not. Support for the new regulations, however, appears to depend to a certain extent on how the regulations themselves are explained. The same poll that found the 50-41 split also showed that the majority of respondents supported the restrictions; a separate survey found that a majority actually opposed them.

While the reasons for these discrepancies could constitute a post of their own, the short answer seems to be that how the question is asked, and what additional information is provided, matters a great deal. Which makes me wonder, what kind of pro-choice messaging would be most useful in a situation like this? I live just on the other side of the Potomac from Virginia, but hadn't heard too much about any outreach or media campaigns, though NARAL Virginia's website has information on the regulations front and center, and several clinics offer information on their sites as well.

The question of how to get the pro-choice viewpoint across to the general public has a seemingly endless number of answers. Some people are in favor of trying to find common ground with anti-choicers; some prefer direct confrontation. There are those that think the most powerful message revolves around personal autonomy, those that think it's women's health, and others that emphasize contraception access and education. This diversity of approaches and viewpoints seems only fitting given the complexity and emotion of the issue, and the staggering range of tactics that anti-choicers employ.

Somehow I have the feeling that, with three months left in the Year of Anti-Choice Laws and the 2012 elections, there will be plenty of opportunities for pro-choice messaging of all kinds.

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