Virginia’s abortion-clinic regulations are the result of legislation passed in the 2011 General Assembly session and have been criticized from the start by pro-choice groups as conservative overreach designed to restrict access to abortions and close clinics that have operated safely for years without such restrictions.
The groups appeared to lodge a victory in June when the Board of Health voted to exempt existing clinics from the regulations, but the board reversed its decision in September after Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican, warned members that he would refuse to certify the change and that the state would not defend them against lawsuits if they adopted the policy.
The dispute led state Health Commissioner Karen Remley to resign over the matter in October.
All 20 of Virginia’s abortion clinics are licensed through April and have until mid- to late 2014 to come in line with the regulations, said Erik Bodin, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Licensure and Certification.
Mr. Bodin said one of the clinics is already up to code and all 19 others have told the state they plan to stay in business and will either make renovations or relocate to better facilities.
Nonetheless, the pro-choice Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health released a statement Monday saying the regulations will restrict women’s access to abortions and other services provided at some clinics, such as cancer screenings and annual checkups.
Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Cuccinelli “have been using elected office to play political games with the health of women,” group Chairwoman Tarina Keene said in the statement. “And they may succeed in passing some of the most extreme state abortion laws in the country while ignoring the will of Virginians.”
Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, who opposes abortion, said the facility regulations are simply a health measure designed to satisfy modern architectural standards. He also accused abortion providers and their supporters of defying their own principles by getting in the way of proper care for women.
“These people are supposed to provide medical care,” he said. “What are they doing on this side of the issue, rejecting the standards that they claim to abide by?”