Judge Rules Abortion Clinic’s Appeal to TRAP Law Can Proceed in Virginia

VIDEO: Dr. Sara Imershein Speaks Out at Arlington Rally Against TRAP Law

Dr. Sara Imershein, an OB-GYN with Falls Church Healthcare Center, speaks Wednesday at a rally outside the Arlington, Virginia, courthouse on behalf of women, and on behalf of an appeal filed by the center against a targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) law in the state. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s motion to dismiss that appeal was ruled against by the Arlington Circuit Court later in the morning.

Wednesday morning, an Arlington Circuit Court judge ruled against a motion filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to dismiss an appeal by the Falls Church Healthcare Center concerning a targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) law in the state.

It was the first hearing in the legal challenge filed by the abortion clinic. At issue was whether the court would move forward with a hearing that would require the Virginia Board of Health and the state’s attorney general to produce facts in response to allegations that principles of Virginia law were violated in the adoption of regulations that will ultimately require all existing abortion clinics in the state to modify their facilities to meet standards otherwise applicable to new hospitals to be built in the state.

The Falls Church administrative appeal claims that a full record will show that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli pressured the Virginia Board of Health to drop a “grandfather clause” that would have exempted existing facilities that provide five or more first-trimester abortions per month from the new regulations.

The ruling today moves forward the challenge against the Virginia Board of Health. The Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Commissioner of Health Dr. Cynthia Romero were dropped as respondents to the administrative appeal.

Upon leaving the courtroom, Rosemary Codding, director of patient services at Falls Church, shared her immediate reaction with RH Reality Check. 

Rosemary Codding, Director of Falls Church Health Center, outside courtroom after the ruling.

Rosemary Codding, director of patient services at Falls Church Healthcare Center, outside the courtroom after the ruling.

“We couldn’t have been happier,” she said. “The one demurral [dropping the Department of Health and Dr. Romero as respondents] makes no difference to the case—none, zilch, zero.”

Since the regulations went into effect on June 20, two clinics in the state have closed, according to a press kit circulated by Falls Church. Given that facilities are subject to a two-year licensure renewal period, and given her knowledge of the last time clinics have renewed, the remaining 18 clinics will have until as late as early fall 2014 to meet the requirements, Alena Yarmosky, advocacy and communications manager for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, told RH Reality Check.

“The Board of Health didn’t adhere to standards that they would in any other case,” Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, told RH Reality Check, citing pressure from the attorney general, a failure to consider a cost-benefit analysis, and ignoring medical advice available to the board.

Roughly 30 purple-clad supporters attended the hearing in the courtroom, and an earlier rally outside the courthouse had approximately 75 attendees. Watch a video of Dr. Sara Imershein, an OB-GYN with Falls Church, at the rally (above).

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