Virginia House Committee: Toughen Abortion Center Standards

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 20, 2011   |   5:14PM   |   Richmond,VA

One day removed from a national controversy surrounding an abortion practitioner in Pennsylvania who killed a pregnant woman and several babies shortly after “live birth abortions,” a Virginia committee passed a bill to toughen standards on abortion businesses.

The Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee of the House of Delegates endorsed the abortion center regulations bill on a 15-6 vote today. The legislation requires abortion facilities to meet the same standards as legitimate outpatient surgical centers. Right now, the abortion centers are only regulated in the same way as doctors’ offices where surgical procedures are not performed.

The Associated Press indicates the bill will likely receive a vote on the House floor next week but it faces a challenge in the state Senate, which has upheld similar legislation in the past — several times over recent years.

Last year, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is pro-life, said in an opinion that the state government can institute the regulations by executive order but pro-life Gov. Bob McDonnell says he wants the legislature to put the regulations in place.

“I think that’s important and I’ll support that,” McDonnell said on Norfolk’s WNIS radio earlier this month of the bill the committee just passed.

The divide has prompted criticism from pro-life state Rep. Bob Marshall, who worries the legislation will die in the legislature.

“The clinic regulations we are asking for are currently in place in South Carolina and according to Attorney General Cuccinelli, do not need legislation to be implemented,” he told “We must continue to petition the Governor to implement these regulations which have been upheld in the Fourth Federal Circuit Court.”

In his opinion, Cuccinelli provided legal guidance for the state Board of Health and said more limits can be placed on abortion businesses in Virginia when it comes to healthy and safety standards.

Noting that Roe v. Wade allows still allows virtually unlimited legal abortions, the attorney general said the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision allowing limits in other states makes it so Virginia limits would likely be seen as constitutional. The key is making abortion businesses meet the same standards as legitimate outpatient medical facilities and those limits could close some abortion centers that do not follow current state guidelines.

After the ruling, McDonnell said he agreed with the analysis.

Under current law, abortion practitioners must be licensed by the state Board of Medicine, but abortion centers themselves are considered “physicians offices,” and don’t meet the same strict standards as surgical facilities doing legitimate medical procedures.

Virginia’s Department of Health had regulated abortion clinics until pro-abortion Chuck Robb became Governor and ended the practice.

Cuccinelli’s opinion is important because it gives the green light for the state legislature to pass bills putting abortion centers in the same category as ambulatory surgery centers and requires them to meet certain standards to protect women’s health. Failure to do so would see them close permanently or temporarily while deficiencies are corrected.

“We should do everything possible to ensure that every woman’s life and health and their future pregnancies are protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia. To do otherwise is to shirk from government’s first responsibility,” Delegate Marshall explained. “The National Library of Medicine has hundreds and hundreds of peer review medical articles documenting the immediate dangers of first trimester legal abortion to women and subsequent pregnancies.”