As a state senator, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli consistently “supported bills that would have treated abortion clinics as ambulatory surgery centers and required them to meet hospital-type regulations with regard to equipment and space,” but none of these bills ever became law. Now that he is Attorney General, however, Cuccinelli has decided that he does not need such legislative authority to act. In an opinion issued late last week, Attorney General Cuccinelli determined that the state already has the power to do what State Senator Cuccinelli failed to accomplish in the legislature:
In addition to applying regulations governing medical facilities and health care providers in general, the relevant agencies are authorized to impose regulations particular to abortion services. … In this circuit, the parameters within which states may constitutionally regulate first trimester abortion services were articulated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Bryant. The Court upheld South Carolina legislation and regulations that, in essence, extended the rules already imposed on facilities offering second trimester abortions to establishments in which five or more first trimester abortions were performed. The regulations at issue concerned licensing requirements; staffing rules; specified drug, equipment and laboratory availability; detailed record keeping and reporting duties; maintenance, safety and emergency policies; sterilization procedures; and design and construction standards.
At the very least, Cuccinelli’s opinion opens the door for Virginia to enact the very same kind of restrictive regulations that are already the law in South Carolina. Moreover, as Igor Volsky points out at the Wonk Room, Cuccinelli’s opinion could lead to even more aggressive use of the kind of “so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) legislation that’s been passed in states across the country.” In a nutshell, TRAP laws attempt to cut off a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion by driving up the cost of the procedure through intentionally burdensome regulations.
Last week’s opinion is also only the latest example of Cuccinelli suddenly discovering that the law must agree with whatever his personal views are on an issue. When Congress enacted a health care law that Cuccinelli disagrees with, he immediately concluded — contrary to the Constitution and a wealth of legal precedent — that the law must be unconstitutional. When the EPA began long-overdue steps to prevent global warming, Cuccinelli suddenly decided that EPA’s actions were illegal. When a UVA scientist conducted research contradicting Cuccinelli’s global warming denialism, Cuccinelli suddenly found that he has the legal authority to pursue a witchhunt against that professor. When a federal judge struck down Arizona’s unconstitutional anti-immigrant law, Cuccinelli responded two days later with an opinion authorizing Virginia to mimic Arizona’s failed law. And, of course, it goes without saying that Cuccinelli forbids any kind of action which protects gay Virginians.
In other words, either the law magically bends to fit Ken Cuccinelli’s whims, or Cuccinelli doesn’t really care what the law says — he’ll just claim it does whatever he wants it to do.