January 4, 2012 — Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) on Thursday signed into law new state rules that require abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, the Washington Post's "Virginia Politics" reports. The new regulations -- approved by the state Board of Health in September 2011 -- took effect immediately (Vozzella, "Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 12/29).
The regulations specify the size of exam rooms, require public corridors to have a minimum width of five feet and stipulate minimum ceiling heights of seven feet 10 inches (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5). They also create new requirements for inspections, record-keeping and medical procedures ("Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 12/29).
Opponents of the new regulations say they are onerous and will force clinics to close. In addition to reducing access to abortion services, clinic closures would limit access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection prevention and treatment services, and birth control services that are provided at the facilities, they argue.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, "Make no mistake, Gov. McDonnell's excessive regulations are based on his political agenda, not on medical necessity." She added, "This is an attempt to shut down all abortion providers in the state in a backdoor attempt to ban abortion" (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/30).
Taylor Thornley, McDonnell's deputy communications director, said in a written statement, "These regulations are a product of an amendment that passed both the [state] House and Senate with bipartisan support," adding, "The governor believes these common-sense regulations will help ensure that this 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" ("Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 12/29).