The Virginia Board of Health fell in line Friday with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, reversing a previous decision to allow abortion providers in the state to operate without meeting new, stricter building codes.
The question essentially was framed as whether all abortion providers should be held to same building standards as larger, full-service hospitals. In June, the Board of Health voted that existing providers of the controversial operation would not have to adhere to new standards; they’d be “grandfathered” in. Included in the new regulations are larger hallways and operating rooms and more parking spaces.
Opponents decry the regulations as too costly and unnecessary, roundabout measures aimed at shutting down the abortion providers.
Cuccinelli, a pro-life Republican, quickly became a key player in the years-running matter after the vote in June. He refused to certify the Board of Health’s exemption, saying the board didn’t have the authority to trump the intent and legislation of the General Assembly.
Cuccinelli’s office said it was “simple”: the General Assembly passed a law making all abortion clinics “hospitals”; they are all “new” as hospitals; hospitals have building code requirements; and the June Board of Health decision is inconsistent with the law, which the board does not have the authority to do, the attorney general’s office noted.
State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Dist. 33), a candidate for attorney general in 2013, quickly bemoaned the involvement of Cuccinelli. Herring repeatedly has criticized the attorney general, claiming he’s focused more on advancing his political career and profile than acting out his duties as the state’s top lawyer.
“It is deeply disturbing that Virginia’s attorney general can act outside the scope of his legal authority, threaten and bully a board he is charged to represent and successfully intimidate them into reversing a policy decision that the attorney general personally disagrees with,” Herring said in a statement.
State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Dist. 31) quickly lent her stance on the decision to Twitter.
“This is a sad day. The BOH reversed itself — current clinics will now have to meet all TRAP regulations. This fight has just begun!!” she wrote.
TRAP, or Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers, is a label many pro-life advocates applied to the new set of codes.