Virginia Health Dept Rejects Planned Parenthood Expansion

State   Steven Ertelt   May 20, 2011   |   12:33PM    Richmond, VA

The Virginia Health Department has rejected a request by the Planned Parenthood abortion business to expand the number of operating tables at its facility in Virginia Beach, where pro-life advocates expect more abortions to occur.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia wants to add two operating rooms at the facility it operates on Newtown Road that it opened in 2010, where it does abortions and provides some non-abortion services. A Certificate of Public Need (COPN) hearing was held at the Virginia Beach Central Library on Monday with a crowd of 80 people evenly divided  in presenting their thoughts to the two-person panel making the decision.

Planned Parenthood claims the two new operating rooms are needed to expand their non-abortion services — which pro-life advocates say are merely a way to try to draw attention from its status as the number one abortion business in the country. The expansion would cost Planned Parenthood $225,000.

The Virginian-Pilot reports today that the state health department initially declined the request and recommended to the state health commissioner, who will issue the final decision later this year, that the expansion plans be denied. State officials say there are already plenty of operating rooms in the region and said Planned Parenthood didn’t show a unique need for its expansion when “reasonable alternatives” are available.

“Improving access to existing operating rooms is a more economical and efficient alternative to adding capacity,” the state said, adding that it could maintain a list of legitimate health centers to refer women to who want non-abortion care.

“We’re obviously very disappointed,” Erin Zabel, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, told the newspaper. “We know that they’re needed services because our patients tell us, the people in the community tell us.”

The Virginian-Pilot indicates the mayors of Newport News and Portsmouth and three state legislators supported the plan while the CEO of Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System opposed it saying the medical center has plenty of space to treat non-abortion patients. Zabel did not say if Planned parenthood would pursue the expansion plans further.

During the hearing earlier this month, local pro-life residents said they were concerned the operating rooms would be used to bring second-trimester abortions to Virginia Beach.

“Abortions are what they do,” said Louantha Kerr, who is with 40 Days for Life Virginia Beach, who noted that thousands of people signed a petition against the abortion center when it opened last year. “Those same 10,615 citizens are saying again today that they don’t want Planned Parenthood to be granted two operating rooms to do more abortions – later-term abortions.”

“The real planned agenda is to expand into the lucrative second trimester abortion business and they would have a monopoly in Hampton Roads,” one woman said.

Another woman accused Planned Parenthood of targeting minorities by building and expanding abortion centers in historically black communities.

COPN Project Supervisor Peter Boswell told people attending the hearing that there are eight criteria the panel uses to evaluate requests like Planned Parenthood’s. he also said members of the public can still voice their views by going to http://www.vdh.state.va.us/OLC/COPN/ at the Virginia Department of Health web site. The final decision is expected by May 19, according to the Daily Press.

You can also write to the Virginia Department of Health at 9960 Maryland Dr., Suite 401, Henrico, VA 23233.