- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

RICHMOND Virginia abortion clinics would be regulated like out-patient surgical centers if legislation passed out of a House committee yesterday becomes law.
"An abortion provider is going to have to have the same equipment, the same requirements, that every other out-patient surgery center has in Virginia," said Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican and chief sponsor of the legislation.
"Why [are] abortionists treated special?" Mr. Marshall asked.
The Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee voted 13 to 8 to pass Mr. Marshall's bill, something he has tried unsuccessfully for several years to get through the General Assembly. The bill would require clinics that perform more than 25 abortions annually to upgrade their equipment and meet the same standards as other out-patient clinics.
"Because women's clinics do not receive the same kind of oversight as other surgical centers, Virginia women are treated like second-class citizens," registered nurse Carol Denner told the committee.
Pro-choice supporters, however, say they fear this legislation could mean the end of legal abortion in Virginia.
"If this bill becomes a law, we could have a situation on our hands where abortion is legal but it's a moot point," said Bennet Greenberg, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.
Experts differ on the number of abortions performed annually in the state, but the accepted range is 27,000 to 32,000. But Mr. Greenberg said the regulations the clinics would be required to meet would be so restrictive and expensive because mandated upgrades that many would be forced out of business.
"I am aware of only one abortion clinic in the state that would meet these requirements," he said.
Debate on the measure was at times heated.
Delegate Vivian E. Watts, Fairfax County Democrat, questioned whether the same regulations should be made for dentists, equating the abortion procedure to the extraction of a wisdom tooth.
"To compare a fetus, which in Latin means unborn child, to a wisdom tooth and a piece of intestine, offends me greatly," said Delegate Winsome Earle Sears, Norfolk Republican.
But Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr., Chesapeake Democrat, questioned Mr. Marshall's intent and asked him what he knew about the procedure.
"This bill, and others like it, is just another attempt to tell a woman how to choose," Mr. Spruill said. "I have yet to see the first man [to] have a baby say how it feels. I'm waiting."
Abortion opponents hailed the committee's decision, saying that the actions are a step in the right direction after years of mistakes.
"It is fitting that on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade [decision in the U.S. Supreme Court] we are finally making women's health a priority," said Victoria Cobb, legislative affairs director for the Family Foundation.
On Jan. 22, 1973, 30 years ago today, the Supreme Court struck down restrictions on abortion. Thousands of marchers on both sides of the issue are expected to gather at the Capitol and Supreme Court today to voice their support for or displeasure with the decision.
Mr. Marshall's bill goes to the full House for a vote, where its passage is uncertain. Even if it does make it out of both chambers, Gov. Mark R. Warner is likely to veto the measure.
"I think we have appropriate abortion restrictions in place," Mr. Warner said.

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