RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s attorney general refused to certify new abortion clinic regulations Monday, saying the Virginia Board of Health unlawfully stripped a hotly contested provision requiring clinics to meet the same strict architectural standards as new hospital construction.
Abortion rights supporters had vigorously opposed the provision, saying it would force most clinics in the state to close. The board’s 7-4 vote last month to exempt existing clinics from the requirement prompted a spontaneous celebration by critics of the regulations who had packed the meeting room after conducting a protest outside.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Allyson K. Tysinger had told the board that it lacked authority to grandfather in existing clinics, saying the law passed by the General Assembly requiring the regulations specifically mandated the tougher building standards. She reiterated that advice in a memo to state Health Commissioner Karen Remley.
“The Board does not have the statutory authority to adopt these Regulations,” she wrote. Because of the conflict between the amendment passed by the board and the state law, she said, “the Board has exceeded its authority.”
The action by Republican Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli’s office alone does not stop the regulations, but it serves as the state’s official legal position as the rules make their way through the executive branch review process. Ultimately, they will go to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who can either approve them or send them back to the board with recommended amendments.
After the governor acts, the regulations go through another round of public comment, possible revisions by the Department of Health, another vote by the board and a second executive branch review before the regulations become final.
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