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War on Women: Anti-Choice Movement Resorting to Shameless Tricks to Shutter Abortion Clinics

Despite lawsuits and activism, women's health clinics are shutting their doors, thanks to "regulations" coming, in one case, from secret origins.

In Arizona, three clinics have stopped providing abortions thanks to a new law that makes it illegal for nurse practitioners to perform medical abortions.

In Kansas, a family planning clinic is scheduled to close  thanks to government pulling funding, while the courts continue to battle out a set of new restrictions that just happen to make it impossible for several abortion clinics in the state to operate at all.

And in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell has taken a page from Kansas' book and is issuing some of the most drastic abortion restrictions seen since Roe, targeting clinics that provide first-trimester abortions with regulations that will effectively force them to shut their doors. 

These "bogus safety restrictions" are the newest front in the war on women. At the same time, older battles from this year are resulting in clear-as-day effects already: invasive sonogram laws in Texas, parental consent laws in Nevada, and the constant pulling of funding from family planning.

These policies are already having negative consequences for women, sometimes drastic ones. While lawsuits, activism and brave legislators have been pushing against the tide, a number of volleys in the "war on women" have hit their targets, and some women are already showing up at the doors of health care providers only to find that services they need are unavailable.

Partly this is because of the multi-pronged approach anti-choicers have taken. Beyond passing restrictions like the ones mentioned above, there's an increasingly common tactic, perhaps the most direct assault on abortion rights  of all: the introduction of a new set of TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws in places like Kansas and now Virginia establishing physical and medical requirements so stringent that clinics can hardly operate.

Kate Sheppard reported on the new Virginia regulations this week, under the headline "Are Virginia's New Abortion Rules the Worst Yet?":

The regulations require Virginia's 22 clinics to meet strict new physical standards; pre-op rooms, for example, must measure at least 80 square feet, and operating rooms must measure 250 square feet. Hallways must be at least five feet wide. The requirements are based on the state's 2010 guidelines for new outpatient surgical facilities. 

Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, told  Mother Jones on Monday that the new rules may actually be the most strict regulations in the United States. "It would be challenging for the majority of our facilities to continue offering first-trimester care," Keene said. "These are designed to really cease first-trimester abortion services in the Commonwealth of Virginia."

What's even more disturbing about these rules is that they're being manipulated in deliberate ways. First of all, the guidelines that form the basis for the regulations were meant for new health clinics, not preexisting ones.  Virginia's Coalition for Women's Health is desperately urging that these rules not be applied retroactively to abortion clinics. Secondly, the state legislature has already decreed that these outpatient abortion clinics are now in the same category as hospitals; a move meant to make them more vulnerable to such regulations.

In Kansas, the regulations that essentially formed the blueprint for Virginia emerged from secretive legislative sessions. These rules were similarly designed so they would, ostensibly under safety regulations, actually prevent clinics from operating. While a judge has blocked the "temporary" rules, "permanent" ones are being crafted. Governor Sam Brownback McConnell 

The Kansas City Star reported that the state has refused legal and press requests to shed light on how these rules came to be and, and whether there was input from the anti-choice community.