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EDITORIAL: Regulating abortion clinics

Virginia AG Cuccinelli tries to clean up a dirty business

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2010

Liberals usually want to regulate everything that breathes, moves, burns, flows or produces. When it comes to abortion mills, however, the same leftists scream bloody murder - not against killing babies, but against daring to regulate the practice even for the mother's safety. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has drawn fire merely for saying his state's Board of Health is allowed to regulate providers of first-trimester abortions. The criticism belongs in the dumpster.

There are two aspects to Mr. Cuccinelli's opinion: the law and common sense informed by basic morality. An attorney general is obligated to issue a legal opinion when requested by a legislator. The opinion isn't legally binding and doesn't create new law, but it does provide helpful guidance to state agencies for interpreting existing law. In this case, those against the new opinion, including several newspaper editorial boards, completely ignore the weighty legal precedents and statutory language cited by the attorney general.

Mr. Cuccinelli noted commonwealth law clearly gives the Board of Health the authority to impose health regulations on "outpatient surgical" units or hospitals. The board already has adjudged that "outpatient abortion clinics" qualify as outpatient hospitals, and the definition for hospital is broad. The hospital regulations themselves are reasonable: ensuring sterility and enough sterile supplies, accurate medical records and emergency plans and services. The standards protect against abortion risks to the mother such as hemorrhages, uterine perforations and bowel injuries.

There's no legitimacy to the pro-abort complaint that such regulations unduly burden the purported right to a first-trimester abortion. The attorney general cited binding precedent from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which includes the Old Dominion. In Greenville Women's Clinic v. Bryant (2000), regulation of first-trimester abortions was allowed to ensure a "dignified and safe procedure." Those who oppose this regulatory authority haven't explained how ensuring safety could be unlawful.

The dodge used by abortionists is to label their operations as merely "physician's offices" rather than surgical units, thus escaping Board of Health regulations. This is risible. At the very least, it makes sense for Mr. Cuccinelli to advise the board that it has the authority itself to examine facilities to see if they exist primarily for purposes of abortion, which is surgery by any reasonable definition.

Common sense dictates that a woman's interest requires the same health and sanitation standards for abortions as for other surgical procedures. This includes oversight by the state health board. Morality demands that women be protected from unhealthy practices of licensed abortionists, who after all are in business to make money and frequently cut corners. Pro-abortion militants are against abortuary oversight for fear that some clinics will be shut down, thus preventing mothers from terminating their pregnancies. That, of course, would be the most moral and healthy outcome of all.

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