July 17, 2012 Print

Virginia AG Won’t Certify Weakened Abortion Center Regulations

by Karla Dial

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli III on Monday said his office can’t certify new regulations for abortion centers that exempt existing facilities.

Earlier this year, the Legislature adopted new regulations considered to be among the strictest in the nation for abortion sellers, making the standards for them the same as those for outpatient surgery clinics — including specifics for the size of exam rooms, the width of hallways, and best practices for keeping records.

But last month, the state Board of Health said existing facilities would be grandfathered in: Though they must adhere to the regulations concerning records, they don’t have to renovate their buildings in an effort to comply.

“The Board does not have the statutory authority to adopt these Regulations,” senior assistant Attorney General Allyson K. Tysinger wrote in a terse letter to state health officials. “The Board has exceeded its authority. Thus, this Office cannot certify these Regulations.”

That doesn’t mean the issue is over, though: Gov. Bob McDonnell still must weigh in on the new regulations, and he is not bound by the attorney general’s opinion. He could choose to certify them, or send them back to the Board of Health with recommended changes.

Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb said the AG’s statement shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following the issue since it first started making headlines last fall.

“His office clearly informed members of the Board of Health when they were voting on these critical health standards that their decision to remove aspects of the standards was not legal,” she said. “Unfortunately, some members of the Board appear to have made a decision based on their personal politics rather than women’s health and the law.”

Abortion activists fought the regulations from the outset, saying that if they had to widen their hallways to accommodate gurneys or make other mandatory renovations, it could bankrupt them.

Cobb said the regulations were not politically motivated when the Legislature drafted them.

“Requiring that Virginia’s abortion centers have adequate facilities for emergency personnel to enter with emergency equipment necessary to transport patients to hospitals is simply a matter of caring about the health of women,” she said. “It is sad that the abortion industry is more concerned about their profits than they are about the health of women in Virginia.”