January 4, 2013 — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Dec. 28 certified health regulations that require abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as new hospitals and posted them to the state Town Hall website for a 60-day public comment period, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/3).
In September, the Virginia Board of Health approved the new regulations after state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) refused to sign off on its original decision to exempt existing facilities from the rules. Cuccinelli then approved the new version and sent it on to McDonnell. The regulations apply to facilities that provide more than five abortions per month (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/19/12).
The Times-Dispatch notes that "[u]nlike the public relations ballyhoo that accompanies many executive actions," the regulations were posted online on the Friday between Christmas and New Year's without any public announcement from the governor, an abortion-rights opponent.
Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, accused McDonnell and Cuccinelli of using their offices to push "an ideological agenda that is out of touch with the residents of this state." She added, "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" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/3).
Tucker Martin, a spokesperson for McDonnell, in an email said, "These regulations are a product of legislation that passed both the House and Senate with support from members of both parties." He added, "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" (Vozzella, "Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 12/31/12).
After the 60-day public comment period, the regulations will be sent back to the Board of Health for review.
According to the Times-Dispatch, the board could vote on the regulations as early as March. If approved, they will proceed to the attorney general and executive branch agencies. The regulations could be permanently adopted by the summer (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/3).