Lawsuit Challenges Va. Abortion Clinic Regulations

June 14, 2013 — A Virginia abortion clinic this week filed the first legal challenge to new state regulations that require abortion facilities to meet the same building standards as hospitals, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 6/13).

The new regulations, which implement a 2011 state law, include requirements governing the width of public hallways, the size of janitor's closets and the number of parking spaces at abortion clinics. They also require clinics to undergo inspections. The regulations will apply to facilities that provide more than five abortions monthly and will take effect in late 2014 (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

Lawsuit Details

Venable Law Firm filed the suit in Arlington County Circuit Court on behalf of Falls Church Healthcare Center, arguing that the rules lack "any rational, medical or public health basis." The suit states that the "arbitrary and capricious" requirements subject clinics to standards that medical offices and current hospitals do not have to meet.

The filing also claims that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) overstepped his authority when he advised the state Board of Health on the regulations and refused to sign off on an earlier version that exempted existing clinics (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/14).

In addition, the suit argues that the regulations conflict with an executive order signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) that requires the state to consider less-restrictive alternatives when imposing regulations that have a significant financial impact on small businesses (AP/Washington Post, 6/13). Falls Church Healthcare Center -- which had about $1 million in business in 2012 -- said it would have to make about $2 million in renovations to meet the new standards.

Brian Gottstein, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, said, "We are reviewing the suit and have no further comment right now" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/14).