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Va. Health Commissioner Resigns Over Abortion Clinic Rules

Va. Health Commissioner Resigns Over Abortion Clinic Rules

October 19, 2012 — Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley on Thursday resigned because of her opposition to new state regulations for abortion clinics, the Washington Post reports (Vozzella, Washington Post, 10/18).

The regulations require facilities that provide more than five abortions per month to abide by construction standards for hospitals. The Virginia Board of Health approved the new regulations last month after state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) refused to sign off on its original decision to exempt existing facilities from the rules (Smith, Politico, 10/18).

Remley's Email

In her resignation email, Remley said, "Unfortunately, how specific sections of the Virginia Code pertaining to the development and enforcement of these regulations have been and continue to be interpreted has created an environment in which my ability to fulfill my duties is compromised and in good faith I can no longer serve in my role" (Washington Post, 10/18).

Remley was appointed to the position by Gov. Timothy Kaine (D), and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) kept her in the post when he took office. McDonnell on Thursday commended Remley's "tremendous public service" during two administrations (Meola, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/18).

Reaction to Resignation

Observers on both sides of the abortion-rights debate noted the influence of politics in Remley's decision.

Wendy Klein, an internist and retired Virginia Commonwealth University medical professor who opposes the rules, said it is "stunning" that Remley "feels so compromised by undue political pressure." She added, "It also makes us that much more vulnerable to the social agenda of the McDonnell administration."

Meanwhile, Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation, which supported the regulations, said the timing of Remley's decision "reeks of political posturing" (Washington Post, 10/18).