Virginia Board of Health Passes Tighter Abortion Clinic Standards

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The Virginia Board of Health has determined that abortion clinics in the state must meet the stringent requirements hospitals must meet in order to operate, according to the Washington Post.

Virginia joins four other states that have tightened their abortion laws in the past six weeks.

Here's a closer look at the decision.

* The vote was 11-2 in favor of the new building codes which must go before Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for review. Both are Republicans.

* This is the second approval from the board. The board had voted to exempt existing clinics from meeting the standards last June, but reversed itself in September.

* Cuccinelli wrote the board and said his office would not defend members who could be held personally liable for any resulting litigation. He also refused to certify the regulations. McDonnell then signed off on the regulations in December, after which review was solicited.

* According to the Associated Press, board members James H. Edmondson Jr. of McLean and H. Anna Jeng of Norfolk both tried to exempt existing clinics, but were unable to do so. The two were appointed by former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat.

* Former Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley spoke at the one-hour public hearing prior to the vote, suggesting that the board should use its authority. Remley resigned last year over what she deemed to be political interference which made it impossible for her to do her job.

* Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb, speaking on behalf of the anti-abortion group, told the board that "This industry simply cannot be believed," according to the AP. "It has covered up its unsatisfactory safety record long enough."

* USA Today reported that clinics will have less than two years to comply with the requirements.

* Katherine Greenier of the ACLU of Virginia decried the decision according to USA Today, saying, "These burdensome construction requirements have no relation to the safety of the services that women's health centers provide. Clearly, the aim here is not to protect women's health but to shut down clinics that provide essential health services, including abortion."

* Opponents have argued that the rules are solely intended to close existing the state's 20 clinics through enforced renovations.

* The other four states which have strengthened their abortion restrictions in recent weeks were Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, and North Dakota.

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and lives near Washington in Germantown, Md.

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