Va. Governor Signs Stricter Rules to Regulate Abortion Clinics

Virginia abortion clinics that perform first-trimester abortions will have to submit to stricter regulations, which could result in most of them being shut down by next year.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the new rules into law Thursday after they received approval from Virginia’s departments of Planning and Budget and Health and Human Resources.

Taylor Thornley, deputy director of communications for Gov. McDonnell, said that the new regulations had strong support from both parties in the General Assembly.

“These regulations are a product of an amendment that passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support,” said Thornley in a statement.

“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.”

In February, the Virginia General Assembly passed new regulations on abortion clinics in the Commonwealth which would regulate abortion facilities as the state does hospitals. This would include requiring that abortion clinics have wider hallways and food facilities.

After passing the General Assembly, the rules went to the Virginia Board of Health where in September they agreed to adopt the new regulations in a 12 to 1 vote.

Pro-Choice groups have long fought the effort, believing that these new rules would require at most of the Commonwealth’s abortion clinics to close down immediately.

One group, Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health, had an online petition urging McDonnell to advance only regulations that “permit the continued availability of first-trimester abortion care.”

“Abortion providers should not be singled out for unwarranted regulations that have nothing to do with the safe delivery of services for women,” read the petition.

However, Olivia Gans, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, told LifeNews that the regulations were “much needed.”

“The much needed regulations will provide greater protection from the dangers of unregulated and under-investigated free standing abortion practitioners throughout Virginia,” said Gans.

“The lives and safety of women are clearly at stake.”

In addition to the stricter regulations signed by McDonnell, there have been other efforts by Virginia lawmakers to advance pro-life positions.

Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) introduced a bill in November 2010 to amend Virginia law’s definition of personhood to include “unborn children.”

Marshall’s HB 1440 passed the House of Delegates in February. However, it was defeated in the Senate Committee on Education and Health in a vote that fell along party lines. Marshall also proposed a “Personhood Amendment” for Virginia in November, which would be similar to other pro-life amendment proposals found in other states.

The new regulations signed by Gov. McDonnell will be published on Jan. 16 so that public comment can be given in a town hall fashion.