Virginia Health Commissioner Resigns In Protest Of Restrictive Abortion Clinic Regulations

Virginia health commissioner Dr. Karen Remley resigned from her position on the state’s Board of Health today, citing Virginia’s restrictive regulations for abortion clinics as her primary reason for stepping down.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Remley believes she can no longer serve on the Board of Health “in good faith” because she does not agree with the new facility regulations, which require clinics to make costly, largely unnecessary updates that may force some of them to shut down:

In a letter to colleagues this afternoon, Remley writes that “how specific sections of the Virginia Code pertaining to the development and enforcement of these regulations have been and continue to be interpreted has created an environment in which my ability to fulfill my duties is compromised and in good faith I can no longer serve in my role.”

“I have submitted my resignation from the position from State Health Commissioner effective today.”

Last month, the state’s Board of Health voted to instate new restrictions for abortion clinics amid reports that State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was essentially threatening the Board, warning that members could be denied state-funded legal services if they voted to relax the clinic regulations.


Women’s health advocates refer to the new laws as the “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers” (TRAP) — an indirect method of restricting women’s access to legal abortions by over-regulating abortion providers, which is a tactic also used to target Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. In a statement regarding Remley’s resignation, the executive director of the advocacy group ProgressVA remarked, “It’s deplorable that the political machinations of Attorney General Cuccinelli and Governor McDonnell have compromised the ability of dedicated public servants like Commissioner Remley to promote the health of all Virginians. It’s never been more clear that these regulations are designed to limit access to safe and legal first trimester abortion in the Commonwealth.”

Former Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) appointed Remley to her position, and she stayed on to oversee the Virginia Department of Health when Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) took office.