Virginia Senate bill addresses abortion


Blacksburg, Va. March 2–Planned Parenthood: While the Blacksburg facility will not provide health services, it will be kept in service for education initiatives. Photo credit: Daron Hennessey

by Daron Hennessey–

On February 16, the Virginia house of representatives voted in favor of HB 1090 a bill that opposes abortion clinics across the state, and the following day it was presented in the senate.  Many bills of this nature have appeared across the country making the option of getting an abortion almost impossible in certain states of the nation.

Planned Parenthood, a women’s health provider, has been at the receiving ends of many new regulations aimed to shut their facilities down. The Planned Parenthood facility in Blacksburg has recently announced its consolidation with the Roanoke facility. Spokesperson for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Sarah Eldred said that change had nothing to do with any new legislation, but more with the center’s competition in Virginia Tech’s health clinics.

“Our center in Blacksburg was created by community members over 30 years ago,” Eldred said. “For many years they filled this vital niche of providing respectful, high-quality family planning services to a student-based population. But the role of health care delivery in Blacksburg has really changed dramatically as  Virginia Tech expanded their student services to include provision of female scans, pap tests and birth control.”

But while students can receive certain STD screenings and health information from  Schiffert’s women’s clinic, the abortion services that Planned Parenthood offers as well as the low-income insurance options for the non-student residents of Blacksburg, they will have to travel into Roanoke for those services.

“90% of what we do is basic preventive health care,” said Eldred. “And one in five women will rely on Planned Parenthood at some point in her life for healthcare. This defunding would jeopardize access to healthcare for those thousands of women.”

Eldred also added that while other clinics may provide the same array of services with the exception of abortion–such as the religiously affiliated Valley Women’s Clinic in Blacksburg–their hours and availability do not extend beyond a nine to five and in many cases are not even open five days a week. Whereas a fully operational Planned Parenthood is open on Saturdays and after five for working women who need after-hours care.

While a forty-five minute drive to Roanoke may be doable for most residents of Blacksburg, these services may be more out of reach for more people across the country.

Bloomberg Business covered the story on a national scale, reporting that 162 abortion clinics have closed since 2011. This is because of laws holding clinics to hospital standards through one means or another, referred to as TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws by those opposing them.

Currently being heard in the Supreme Court is a a case questioning the legality of one such law that requires clinics to be registered as “ambulatory surgical centers” and require doctors to obtain admitting privileges before performing any procedures. The legitimacy of the law in question is whether it would provide enough “undue burden” on a woman seeking the procedure that it would go against the precedent of Roe v. Wade.

In Virginia, however, the bill uses straightforward language that would prevent the Department of Health from funding any facility where abortions can be held. The bill has been heard in the senate, and referred to committee on education and health.

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100 Virginia Tech students chose to take a survey on the debate and the bill being entertained in the Virginia Senate this month. Click to see other questions and responses.