Republican Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli refused on Monday to certify regulations put forward by the Virginia Board of Health granting exceptions to existing abortion clinics from new building regulations passed by the legislature, according to the Virginian-Pilot. The new regulations would otherwise have forced most, if not all, existing clinics to close, which was the underlying purpose of the new law.
TThe dispute is the new law started even before state’s General Assembly passed it during the legislative session, stipulating that abortion clinics must adhere to the same architectural regulations as hospitals. This would have closed most of the state's 20 abortion clinics. The state Board of Health stipulated in a 7-4 vote that existing abortion clinics could be granted an exception to this new law.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Allyson K. Tysinger said that the state board had "exceeded its authority" when passing an exception for existing clinics.
Pro-choice advocates generally refer to the types of regulations that Virginia is implementing as TRAP laws, or targeted regulation of abortion providers. The Center for Reproductive Rights describes such laws this way, "Such regulations may require that abortions be performed in far more sophisticated and expensive facilities than are necessary to ensure the provision of safe procedures. Compliance with these physical plant requirements may require extensive renovations or be physically impossible in existing facilities."
The Virginian-Pilot explains that the regulatory fight over this particular law is not over. It must go through several more steps, including approval from Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, the state Department of Health, a second vote from the state Board of Health and final approval from the governor's administration before the regulation will be finalized.
Molly Vick, who heads a group designed to fight the anti-choice regulations, told the Virginian-Pilot, "The attorney general and the governor are clearly acting in concert to continue their longtime crusade to end access to abortion in Virginia."