September 13, 2012 — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) on Wednesday sent members of the state Board of Health a memo threatening legal action if they ignore his advice about new abortion clinic regulations, the Virginian-Pilot reports. The board is scheduled to consider the regulations at a hearing on Friday (Walker, Virginian-Pilot, 9/13).
In June, the board decided that existing facilities would be exempt from new rules that require abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as new hospitals. In July, Cuccinelli said the board's vote was unlawful and refused to certify the requirements, which are among several regulations being implemented under a law Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signed in January (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/10).
In the new memo, Cuccinelli said the board members could be denied state legal counsel and forced to pay for their own lawyers if they affirm the exemption for existing facilities and litigation ensues (Virginian-Pilot, 9/13).
Both Sides Gear Up for Meeting
The meeting is expected to draw strong attendance from both supporters and opponents of abortion rights, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
On Wednesday, civil rights lawyers, physicians and women's rights advocates said Cuccinelli and McDonnell's administration are injecting politics into women's health decisions and corrupting the integrity of the board (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/13).
Meanwhile, the Family Foundation of Virginia, which supports the original rules, released three inspection reports on nine clinics that the group obtained under the state Freedom of Information Act. According to the organization, the first state inspections of abortion clinics listed 80 violations regarding various issues, including drug storage and dispensing, infection prevention, and poor equipment maintenance.
The foundation said inspections revealed unsafe and "utterly disgusting" conditions, including spilled blood and conception matter in a freezer.
Clinic operators accused the foundation of exaggerating the findings to try to sway the board before Friday's meeting. The Coalition to Protect Women's Health noted that the state granted all nine of the clinics licenses to operate after the inspections (AP/Washington Post, 9/12).