Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) secretive signing of new building standards for the state’s abortion clinics has been ripped by pro-choice groups, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
“After two years of shocking backroom deals and bullying public health servants, Gov. Bob McDonnell is clearly proving his disregard of Virginians’ opinions about women’s health care,” NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene said on Monday.
In a rare move, McDonnell did not announce the certification of the new rules, instead posting them online without comment on Dec. 28. They are currently subject to a 60-day public comment period, after which the state Board of Health will decide to send them to McDonnell and Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for final approval.
The new regulations will require most of the state’s 20 clinics providing abortion services to undergo changes like widening their hallways and expanding their operating rooms within a two-year compliance period, which supporters said could force several of them to close because of the costs involved.
A spokesperson for the governor, J. Tucker Martin, defended the new rules by saying they were vetted through not only public comment and agency reviews, but the passing of state legislation on the matter in 2011.
“The governor believes these common-sense regulations will help ensure that this medical procedure takes place in facilities that are modern, safe and well regulated, in order to help ensure the safety and well being of all patients,” Martin said.
At the time it was passed, critics called the measure “a TRAP law,” short for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, a type of legislation that applies hospital building guidelines to abortion clinics.
Abortions rights advocates also said members of the state board were intimidated into adopting the new building guidelines in September.
“Despite testimony that showed the proposed regulations will likely drive up health care costs for patients and drive health providers out of practice, under pressure from the Attorney General’s office, the Board of Health chose to rubber stamp the draft regulations,” the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health said in a statement (PDF) at the time. “The sad fact is that the new regulations passed have no proven medical benefit to patients and, instead, will only serve to further limit patient access to abortion care as well as life saving cancer screenings, birth control, and the wide range of preventive care provided at women’s reproductive health centers.”
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