Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently announced the appointments of five new members to the state Board of Health. He directed the Board to review controversial regulations it adopted to regulate all Virginia women’s health clinics at which first trimester abortions are performed.
Gov. McAuliffe made the right decision.
In 2011, Virginia passed a new law authorizing the Board of Health to adopt stricter regulations for these women’s health clinics. The regulations require the clinics to comply with construction standards used for inpatient hospitals. They force the clinics to have hallways that are of specific widths, provide locker rooms for staff members, new ventilation systems and larger parking lots.
Recognizing that the regulations would cost millions to implement, the Board initially grandfathered existing women’s health clinics from their applicability. The Board’s initial decision was wise when you consider that the new law and regulations do not cover other outpatient facilities, such as those performing oral or plastic surgery, even though the latter facilities engage in medical procedures of comparable risk.
After the Board’s initial decision, the Board came under intense pressure from then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to reverse it. Cuccinelli wrote to Board members, telling them that they had exceeded their authority, and warning them that if they persisted in their decision to grandfather existing clinics, he would not defend them in any subsequent lawsuits. He also warned them that they might be personally liable in any such suits.
Faced with these pressures, the Board reversed itself, and proclaimed that existing clinics would be subject to its new regulations. If the Board sticks to this course, most or all existing clinics are likely to shut down. Five have already closed. When clinics close, women are also denied access to other services, such as testing for sexually transmitted infections and cancer screenings, or they are forced to travel longer distances to get these services.
Cuccinelli’s goal from the beginning was to shut down as many of these clinics as possible.
The Board could simply vote to re-affirm that no existing clinics are grandfathered. In that case, the clinics and their patients are no worse off than now. The Board could vote to go back to its original decision to grandfather existing clinics. Those who believe the Board lacks power to do that could challenge the Board in court. If such a challenge succeeds, the clinics and their patients again are no worse off than now. But, if such a challenge fails, then the clinics and their patients will be much better off than they are now.
Gov. McAuliffe deserves credit for standing up for women’s health and reproductive choice in Virginia.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Protesters lined N. Courthouse Road this morning (Wednesday) to speak out against the new state regulations on abortion clinics this year.
Falls Church Healthcare Center filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Board of Health and the Virginia Department of Health in Arlington Circuit Court, and doctors and administrators from the practice spoke before a crowd of several dozen before the case was set to be heard in court for the first time.
“Because of these regulations, two women’s health centers have already been forced to close,” said Margaretha Netherton, a registered nurse with FCHC. “Patients want healthcare performed by doctors and nurses, not lawyers.”
In April, the Virginia Board of Health voted to implement regulations that require centers that perform five or more abortions a month to have building requirements, including construction outlines like width of hallways of hospitals and nursing homes. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a motion to dismiss the FCHC’s lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court. Just after 11:00 a.m., the court dismissed the state’s motion against FCHC’s suit.
Those in attendance chanted “Virginia women deserve more” and held signs with slogans like “Stop the War on Virginia’s Women,” “Keep Abortion Legal,” and “I Oppose Illegal Abortion.” The speakers said if the abortion clinics are forced to close, women will be forced to resort to illegal or self-abortions.
“[Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers] laws do not protect the women of Virginia,” Sara Imershein, an OB/GYN with FCHC, told the crowd. “They put them in danger.”
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to be elected Virginia Governor this year. If he succeeds, the values on which he has built his political career ensure that he would exploit every opportunity to set Virginia’s women back 60 years to an era in which they were “stuck in the drudgery of domestic servitude.”
You think I’m exaggerating? Cuccinelli supports a “personhood amendment” to Virginia’s Constitution.
The practical effect of enacting a personhood law in Virginia would be to end or cripple a series of personal rights and private decisions that Virginia’s women have enjoyed for decades, such as:
- Birth control
- Fertility treatment
- Management of a miscarriage
- Access to safe and legal abortions
Cuccinelli is also the godfather of the effort to drive all abortion clinics in Virginia out of business. In 2011, the Virginia legislature passed a law that classified abortion clinics that perform more than 5 first-trimester abortions per month as hospitals rather than doctor’s offices. The intent of the law, candidly admitted by many of its sponsors, was to drive these clinics out of business entirely because of the expense of compliance.
This 2011 abortion clinic law was patterned after an earlier bill that Cuccinelli had sponsored when he was in the Virginia State Senate. In his current role as Attorney General, Cuccinelli has fought every step of the way to be sure that this abortion clinic law is harshly and mercilessly applied to wipe these clinics out.
Further cementing his role as a champion of setting women’s rights back decades, Cuccinelli recently welcomed a $1.5 million pledge to his campaign for Governor from the Susan B. Anthony List — “a national organization known for its extreme stance on women’s health care.”
A Virginia governed by Ken Cuccinelli would be a 21st century real-life version of Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 science fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Cuccinelli’s views on the proper role of women in our society are central to his values and the way in which he would govern our state.
This is not science fiction — this is all too real. We can’t afford to take a risk like this.
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
An anti-abortion protest was held outside Washington-Lee High School this morning.
A group of anti-abortion protesters held signs and displayed graphic photos of aborted fetuses. This afternoon, W-L principal Gregg Robertson sent an email to parents filling in some details about the protests.
This morning, members of the Human Life Alliance appeared on the public sidewalk in front of Washington-Lee. They had signs and attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion. No advance notice was given to Arlington Public Schools or to Washington-Lee and this was not an approved event. W-L administrators and the Arlington police asked the group to move across the street, but the individuals refused, noting that they were in the public domain on a public sidewalk. While that is true, it is unfortunate that they chose that type of confrontation method to express their views to children who are mostly ages 14-17. Please be assured it is not anything we would ever approve or encourage, and we regret that the events took place this morning.
The annual National Right to Life Convention will be coming to Arlington later this month.
The convention is billed as the “42nd annual meeting of pro-life grassroots leaders and experts from across the country.” The three day event starts on Thursday, July 28, and will feature six “major sessions,” more than 100 pro-life speakers and more than 70 workshops.
Speakers will include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
The convention will be held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, at 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway. The previous two National Right to Life conventions were held in Jacksonville, Fla. and Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Hyatt Regency has been on a roll in terms of booking notable or unique events with disparate themes. It has recently hosted the 2011 DMV Music Awards, the Anime USA convention and the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, and a trade group meeting about the health of cow udders.
Yesterday the Virginia Senate narrowly passed a controversial bill that requires pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.
The bill passed by the state Senate had been amended to only require an external ultrasound, following a furor over the fact that the original version would have mandated invasive transvaginal ultrasounds for most first trimester pregnancies.
On a bipartisan vote, the bill was also amended to exclude rape and incest victims from the ultrasound requirement. That amendment was proposed by Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents part of Arlington. Other amendments proposed by Howell, including amendments that would have mandated insurance companies to cover the cost of the procedure, were rejected on a party line vote.
Howell criticized the bill, even in its amended form, for requiring a medical procedure that’s not medically necessary.
“Before this bill was amended, there were those who talked about it as ‘state rape.’ And Republicans voted for it,” Howell said. “The amended bill goes from state rape to state assault. And Republicans have now voted for state assault on women.”
Sen. Barbara Favola (D), of Arlington, also weighed in.
“I’m personally offended as a woman that the state of Virginia doesn’t trust my judgment about making intimate personal decisions about my body and my reproductive health,” Favola said in a statement. “This is the height of government intervention stomping on my constitutional rights. What will be next?”
Republicans argued that the ultrasound bill allows women to make a better informed decision before getting an abortion. The amended bill will now head to the House of Delegates, where it’s expected to pass, before landing on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed.
Could the recent controversy in Richmond over social issues be hurting Virginia businesses? Yes, says Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D) and a group of local business leaders.
This year’s state legislative session has been marked by heated partisan debate over the merits of Republican-sponsored bills concerning abortion, women’s health and gay adoptions. Most of the controversial bills have been either killed or delayed, and the legislature is now starting to focus its attention on the state budget, but Democrats are still decrying the renewed focus on social issues and the media attention it brought to Virginia.
(Update at 3:00 p.m.: a modified version of a bill requiring mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions has passed the Virginia Senate by a vote of 21-19.)
Yesterday Del. Brink took to the floor of the House of Delegates (see video, above) to read a letter from a number of Northern Virginia business leaders, including representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association and Vornado/Charles E. Smith. Addressed to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and the entire state legislature, the letter argued that “extreme proposals governing social issues” are detrimental to Virginia’s ability to attract “the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.”
As business leaders and employers in Virginia we applaud your successful bi-partisan efforts to keep Virginia first in national rankings as the most business-friendly state.
We urge you to maintain this ranking going forward by ensuring Virginia is a magnet for the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.
Specifically, we urge you to reject extreme proposals governing social issues on which Americans are passionately divided. Otherwise it will be difficult for Virginia to attract and retain the entrepreneurs and talent we need to grow Virginia.
Del. Brink minced no words in describing how he felt about the outward image projected by Virginia General Assembly this year.
“All you have to do is turn on your TV, open any national newspaper, or go to YouTube, and it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that we’ve allowed ourselves to be portrayed as a bunch of ignorant, backward-looking buffoons,” Brink said. “It’s not just our image that’s taken a hit: it’s the economy — the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century — that’s in danger.”
Fetus Personhood Bill Defeated — A coalition of Democrats and Republicans helped defeat a bill that would have granted legal “personhood” status to unborn children at the moment of conception. The Virginia House of Delegates had approved the bill, but the state Senate voted yesterday to delay consideration of the bill until next year in order to allow further study. Pro-choice advocates argued the bill would have had unintended consequences, like outlawing some forms of contraception and granting expectant mothers use of HOV lanes. [Huffington Post]
Amazon to Pay Sales Tax in Virginia — Get ready to start paying a 5 percent sales tax on your Amazon.com purchases. The online retailer agreed yesterday to start collecting sales taxes in Virginia. Traditional brick and mortar retailers were pushing state legislators to force Amazon to pay sales taxes, saying that the company’s sales tax “loophole” gave them an unfair competitive advantage. [WAMU]
Klingon Casting Call — Arlington’s WSC Avant Bard is seeking some local Klingons for its “Shakespeare in Klingon” show on March 4. The theater company is holding a Klingon casting call in Dupont Circle from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. [Washington Post]
Improv Class This Weekend — An “Introduction to Improv” class is being held on Saturday at Arlington’s Theater on the Run (3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive). The class is being hosted by The Arlington Players and taught by Dunbar Dicks of the legendary Chicago improv troupe Second City. [The Arlington Players]
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief
Frida Kahlo Opening Tonight — An exhibit of 259 personal photographs of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo will go on display at Rosslyn’s Artisphere cultural center (1101 Wilson Blvd) tonight. It’s the first time the photos have been on display in the U.S. A public opening is being held tonight from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. The exhibit will run through March 25. [PBS Newshour]
Kapinos Re-Ups with Steelers — NFL punter and Arlington resident Jeremy Kapinos has re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kapinos, who lives in Arlington in the off-season, is reportedly making between $600,000 and $1.26 million for the one-year deal. [Steelers Depot]
Hotel Palomar Now ‘Le Meridien’ — Rosslyn’s Hotel Palomar has been officially rebranded as a high-end, European-style ‘Le Meridien’ hotel. The restaurant in the Le Meridien Arlington, formerly known as Domasco Restaurant, has also been rebranded; it’s now being called ‘Amuse.’ The hotel is being managed by Starwood, following the purchase of the property for some $45 million by HEI Hotels and Resorts. [USA Today, Washington Business Journal]
Revised Ultrasound Bill Passed — Yesterday the Virginia House of Delegates voted for an amended bill that requires women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound, while removing the defacto requirement that the procedure for early pregnancies involve and invasive, transvaginal ultrasound. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) revoked his support for the original bill following protests and national media attention. [Huffington Post]
Dust at Courthouse Metro Station — We’ve heard from several readers who were concerned about a high concentration of construction dust at the Courthouse Metro station yesterday. Apparently, the dust was left over from track work over the weekend. Not to fear, says WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel. According to Stessel, the dust was “not harmful.”
General Assembly Approves ‘Conscience Clause’ Bill — The state legislature has passed — and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) says he will sign — a bill that would allow private adoptions agencies legally discriminate against gay couples for religious or moral reasons. [Associated Press, Reuters]
McDonnell Reconsidering Abortion Ultrasound Bill? — Gov. Bob McDonnell “is backing off his unconditional support” for a bill that would require women to receive a potentially invasive, medically unnecessary ultrasound before receiving an abortion. The bill drew more than a thousand protesters to Richmond over the weekend, and has attracted national attention. Both Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show have recently taken turns poking fun at it. Lawmakers are said to be working on a compromise version of the bill. [Washington Post]
Lopez Claims Free Clinic Victory — Del. Alfonso Lopez says his budget amendment to restore $1.6 million in funding to Virginia’s free clinics has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee. Gov. Bob McDonnell had called for cuts to free clinics, arguing that the federal health care reform bill will grant health coverage to many of the low income individuals who use the clinics. The cuts would have impacted the local Arlington Free Clinic. [Del. Alfonso Lopez]
Seventeen-Year-Olds to Vote in Board Election? — Civic-minded 17-year-olds will be allowed to vote in the upcoming March 27 County Board special election — provided they turn 18 by this year’s general election date (Nov. 6). [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
The goings-on within the Virginia General Assembly generally do not make national news, but that changed this week after legislators passed a Republican-sponsored bill requiring women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound.
Incensed by what he saw as unnecessary government intrusion into the private lives of women, Del. David Englin (D) issued a scathing statement about the bill.
“This bill will require many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions,” Englin said. ”This kind of government intrusion shocks the conscience and demonstrates the disturbing lengths Republican legislators will go to prevent women from controlling their own reproductive destiny.”
The statement apparently attracted the attention of cable news bookers. Englin, who represents parts of Arlington and Alexandria, was invited on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show last night to reiterate his point for a national audience.
Before the interview, Maddow argued that should the bill be signed as-is by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), it could hurt his chances of becoming a Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012.
The bill, which passed the House of Delegates yesterday and the state Senate two weeks ago, would require an ultrasound to determine a fetus’ gestation age. It would then give the woman the option to view the ultrasound before her abortion.
Englin said the bill represents a level of government intrusion that “shocks the conscience.” According to Englin’s office:
… only an invasive transvaginal probe ultrasound can effectively determine gestation age during much of the first trimester, which is when most abortions occur. Englin offered an amendment to require the pregnant woman’s consent prior to subjecting her to a vaginal penetration ultrasound, but House Republicans rejected the amendment by a vote of 64 to 34.
Englin issued a statement in response to the bill’s passage:
This bill will require many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions. This kind of government intrusion shocks the conscience and demonstrates the disturbing lengths Republican legislators will go to prevent women from controlling their own reproductive destiny.
I offered an amendment that would have protected women from the unwanted vaginal penetration required by this bill. House Republicans rejected that amendment. The next time Virginia Republicans speak the words ‘government intrusion’ I hope voters will remember this vote and hold them accountable for their hypocrisy.
Republicans, however, countered that the abortion itself is an invasive procedure.
“If we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have,” said bill sponsor Del. Kathy Byron (R), according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Arlington Office Vacancies Up — Arlington and Alexandria were the only two D.C. area markets that saw a significant increase in office vacancies in 2011, according to recently-released data. Arlington, which had the lowest office vacancy rate at the end of 2010, ended 2011 with the same vacancy rate as the District of Columbia. The loss of government office tenants as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act is said to be to blame for the rise in vacancies. [Washington Post]
Howell Tries to Insert Viagra Provision Into Abortion Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents part of Arlington, tried to insert a bit of “gender equity” into a bill being considered by the Virginia Senate. The bill, SB484, would require that a woman seeking an abortion be offered the opportunity to view an ultrasound image of her fetus. Howell’s amendment, which was narrowly defeated along party lines yesterdsay, would have required men to receive a “digital rectal exam and cardiac stress test” before receiving a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication. [Blue Virginia]
Eleventh Street Lounge Closes — Eleventh Street Lounge in Clarendon closed up shop over the weekend to make way for a new office development. The restaurant’s management is reportedly hoping to relocate to a new space, at least temporarily. [Clarendon Nights]
Marine Beaten in Crystal City — Updated at 9:00 a.m. — NBC4 is revealing new details about a malicious wounding incident reported in last week’s Arlington County crime report. A Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan and who’s up for a Silver Star medal was severely beaten with a club outside the 7-Eleven on 23rd Street in Crystal City. The attack, which was caught on surveillance video, may have been precipitated by a racial comment. [NBC Washington]
Photo courtesy Dan Gifford
Merrick started out the night with a stump speech that focused on her background as a successful businesswoman and on her desire “streamline regulation and taxation so we can unleash the entrepreneurial spirit.” During the speech Merrick, a McLean resident, tried to strike a bipartisan tone.
“I am not running as a partisan, I’m running to represent every one in this district,” she said. “I am not running on social issues.”
Alas, social issues quickly entered the conversation as questions from the audience focused on more divisive subjects.
“How will you stand up for my daughter’s right to choose?” one man asked.
“There are millions of good people on both sides of this issue,” Merrick replied. “I am pro-life and I am pro-woman.”
Merrick’s Democratic opponent, Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola, then answered and drew loud applause as she declared herself “100 percent pro-choice.” She went on to argue that if Merrick was elected, Republicans in the Virginia legislature would have a better shot at passing laws that restrict abortion rights and the rights of immigrants.
“I am very troubled by this social agenda,” she said of state Republicans.
Later, Merrick was asked about the A- rating she received from the National Rifle Association. The man asking about it was Omar Samaha, a three-year Cherrydale resident whose sister was killed in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. Samaha asked if the candidates supported background checks on private gun sales.
“I’ve been around guns all my life, but in a safe way… a responsible way,” said Merrick, whose father was a Marine. Pressed on whether she thinks background checks should be required for all gun sales, Merrick said yes.
“I do think we should have a background check,” she said.
Favola was again unequivocal, saying she was proud of the ‘F’ she received from the NRA
“I feel very strongly that we have too many gun sales in this country, to people who are not mentally stable and should not be having access to guns,” Favola said. She went on to question why guns are allowed in Virginia’s bars and why localities like Arlington don’t have more power to regulate guns.
Another resident asked Favola and Merrick whether they’d release their answers to the survey the NRA sends to candidates. Favola said she, in fact, did not respond to the survey. Merrick said she would release the survey before the election, and then commented on the question itself.
“I have to say, these questions tonight have not been representative of what I’ve been asked as I’ve knocked on doors around the district,” she said.
“I am running on jobs and the economy,” said Merrick. “We need to diversify our economy. That is the most important issue.”
In her closing remarks, Favola said there’s “a definite choice” between herself and Merrick, adding that Merrick was listed on a Northern Virginia Tea Party website. Merrick, who earlier criticized the “rancor” on Capitol Hill, took the bait. She responded by saying that Favola “knows nothing about” bipartisanship.
“I’m not a member of the Tea Party, I don’t know how my picture got up there,” she said tersely. “Barbara Favola is not looking to solve problems, she’s looking to start a fight.”
According to tipsters and police dispatches, the man stands along Route 50 during the morning and evening rush hours, holding the graphic sign for all to see.
“You may have already heard about this, and the police knew about it when I called the non-emergency line, but there is a hideous Abortion is Murder banner right before the Rosslyn/Key Bridge exit on Rt. 50 Eastbound,” a tipster told us this morning. “It’s about 10 feet wide, maybe 3 feet tall, and incredibly graphic.”
Another tipster had a few more details.
In the past week, I have seen a white male in his early 30s standing near the Marine Corps Memorial on 50E/50W (Rosslyn exit) holding a large sign of with grotesque pictures of supposedly aborted fetuses at 10 weeks. I have twice seen Arlington or U.S. Park police escorting this man away and asking him to take down the sign. I assume he does not have a permit or it is illegal to protest on federal grounds or in areas that may cause traffic disturbances. But today he found a better hiding place. I really don’t want to give him any publicity, but I don’t appreciate being inundated with those images on my morning and evening commutes.