The Virginia Board of Health passed a set of regulations on Thursday that represent the most significant legal challenge to abortion providers anywhere in the nation: rules that could ultimately force all the state's clinics to shut down.

The new rules are similar to those passed by Kansas earlier this year, providing a new license classification for clinics if they carry out more than five non-emergency abortions a year.

That new classification comes with a plethora of additional regulations that would require the clinics to be up to code with hospitals. Some of the rules even mandate things as minor as the temperature in individual rooms.

Choice advocates argue that the rules were designed to force the clinics to shut down. The governor used "emergency" legislative provisions to issue a guidance to the Department of Health on the state's Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law, directing them to establish regulations that treat clinics like hospitals.

The rules are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, unless the courts intervene as they did in Kansas.

Photo credit: Flickr commons.