In a significant win for Virginia pro-life advocates, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Wednesday certified new regulations requiring abortion facilities to adhere to the same health and architectural standards as new hospitals on specifications ranging from doorway widths to room sizes.
Pro-lifers say the regulations, which include numerous record keeping and inspection standards, will improve health and safety at facilities that have long operated without oversight.
During the two-year public debate period, pro-abortion advocates had repeatedly argued that the cost of complying with the regulations would force some facilities to close.
But state Health Commissioner Karen Remley told the Virginia Board of Health earlier this month that all of the state’s abortion facilities already have been inspected, and none have indicated they intend to close. Eleven have been licensed after submitting plans to correct deficiencies, while corrective plans for others are pending.
Cuccinelli’s office sent notice on Wednesday to state health officials that it certified that the Board of Health acted within its authority and that the proposed regulations are constitutional and do not conflict with existing laws or regulations.
Earlier this year the board backed a change to the rules that would have exempted the state’s 20 existing abortion facilities from the new standards. Cuccinelli warned the board that it lacked the legal authority to make the change, given that the Virginia General Assembly had passed the rules last session, and that his office would not represent the board if it was sued over the regulations.
On Sept. 14, the board backtracked and voted 13-2 to include all facilities.
Pro-abortion advocates have complained that Cuccinelli, a pro-life Republican, was bullying the board.
“The other board members had no stomach for taking on the attorney general,” board member Jim Edmonson, who supported exempting existing facilities, told WORLD.
The attorney general’s office replied in a statement to WORLD: “Where the law leaves him discretion, the attorney general indicated several days before the board meeting in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his personal position was to provide representation.”
“[These regulations] will force an industry that has had no accountability to clean up its act,” said Victoria Cobb of the Family Foundation of Virginia. “Initial safety inspections by Department of Health officials found 80 violations of safety standards in just nine abortion centers. This is an industry long in need of oversight.”
Edmonson said that the violations found in the initial inspections of the facilities were all correctable. “If you dig in a shallow pattern around the headline, it’s a non-issue,” he said.
If Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who supports the stricter regulations, approves them, they will be posted for public comment for 60 days before returning to the Board of Health for final consideration.
If implemented, abortion centers will have two years to bring their facilities up to code.