Gov. McDonnell: Law Which Seeks To Regulate Abortion Clinics Out Of Existence Is ‘In The Interest Of Health’

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA)

On Friday afternoon, as many Americans braced for Hurricane Irene, Virginia state health officials quietly released draft regulations requiring state abortion providers to meet the physical plant requirements of hospitals. The guidelines — the result of legislation Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed earlier this year — were formulated through an “emergency” process that bypassed the normal public notice procedures and require existing abortion clinics to meet the standards of brand new construction. For instance, examination rooms at clinics must now “contain at least 80 square feet of clear floor space; some operating rooms must have at least 150 square feet; and public corridors must be at least 5 feet wide – 6 feet if patients are wheeled through them on stretchers.”

Officials at the clinics have described the rules as an “‘attack on reproductive rights‘ intended to force clinics to close, not enhance safety as some proponents suggest.” But during his monthly call-in radio show this morning, McDonnell defended the regulations, saying that they were “in the interest of health”:

“There’s ample time for the public to be involved, to give us their input,’’ McDonnell said. “We’re just following what the General Assembly has passed, and that is these clinics be regulated as hospitals.” […]

McDonnell, who opposes abortion rights, said he signed and supported the bill and that the regulations are not designed to close clinics.

There will be some increased costs, and many of these providers obviously are for-profit entities and they will factor that into their costs,’’ he said.

But if the proposed guidelines aim to improve health and safety, then why didn’t legislators allow appropriate time for the state to conduct a proper assessment and review of the kind of changes that could be necessary? Instead, legislators — who had been pushing this initiative for years — mandated “that the rules be written no more than 280 days after the bill was signed into law.”

First trimester abortions (the only kind that can be legally performed in Virginia clinics) are also “one of the safest medical procedures available in this country and [are] already heavily controlled by state and federal regulations.” Should the Board of Health vote to approve the rules on September 15th, at least some of the state’s 22 clinics will likely shut down and access to abortion for Virginia women — 86 percent of Virginia’s counties already lack any abortion providers at all — will be further compromised.