Tougher Health Regulations Close Virginia Abortion Facility

Hillcrest Clinic in Virginia Beach, the first abortion facility to open in southeastern Virginia after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, is closing on Saturday, following 40 years of performing abortions.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that the abortion clinic’s closure comes about a week after Virginia’s Board of health voted to implement a law requiring abortion facilities “to meet strict, hospital-style building codes.”

The regulations have their origin in a law, passed in 2011, by the Virginia General Assembly. The law’s implementation has been discussed and debated by government officials and activists for the past two years.

The facility’s owners said their decision to close the clinic was due to both the expense of meeting the new regulations and a drop in demand for abortions.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Suzette Caton, the director of the Hillcrest Clinic. “But I also feel like for 40 years we’ve had the honor of providing compassionate care to the women in Tidewater who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. The staff upheld what the philosophy of the clinic was, and that was to ensure that women had access to a safe, legal abortion.”

According to Caton, architects estimated that the Hillcrest facility would require $500,000 in renovations, including changing ventilation and temperature controls, to meet the standards.

In addition, the overall number of abortions in the area declined by nearly 18 percent since 2009. Costs of supplies and staffing have risen as well.

Supporters of the new law, however, say the new regulations promote women’s health and safety.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said she trusted medical professionals to come up with appropriate standards.

“If folks want to invest in the health and safety of women- in the health standards- you’d think they’d be able to find the funds to do that,” Cobb said.

Three remaining abortion clinics in southeastern Virginia are upgrading their facilities to comply with the new Virginia regulations. Planned Parenthood has also complied.


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