Va. health board softens on abortion rules

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

In a major victory Friday for abortion rights advocates, Virginia health officials backed off previous attempts to force new standards on 23 facilities that provide first-trimester abortions.

The Virginia Board of Health voted 7 to 4 to exempt existing providers from rules that would have required their facilities to meet structural standards currently only required of hospitals.

The temporary rules have been in place since December and the board is deciding Friday whether to make them permanent. The new standards call for larger operating rooms, wider hallways and bigger parking lots, which pro-choice advocates blasted as unduly burdensome.

Only new facilities will have to meet those requirements.

Though abortion rights supporters predicted early on that the new regulations would force many of the state's abortion providers to close, many existing facilities already met the new standards and others had plans in place that would allow them to comply with them or receive an exemption, The Washington Examiner first reported earlier this year. If the revisions were too costly, some facilities faced closure.

The health board also voted to speed up the process for a provider to obtain certification from the state.

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