In a move that will certainly touch off heated emotions on both sides of the abortion rights fight, The Virginia General Assembly yesterday agreed to a change in the regulation of abortion clinics. The lawmakers agreed that these clinics should be regulated as hospitals instead of doctor’s offices. It was hailed by anti-abortions advocates as a victory for improving clinic safety, while railed against by Abortion rights activist as enfringing on a woman’s right to choose.
From the other side of this issue, Abortion rights advocates are clearly dismayed at such a decision. It would make the regulations in Virginia perhaps the toughest in the country. It would also mean that 17 of the 21 clinics currently doing abortions in the state to close. They would have to do this because they would not have the funding or the space for the needed expansion in facilities.
For a number of years, Virginia has Democratic governors to block this kind of legislation, but with Governor Bob McDonnell in office, the bill will get signed off on. Once that has been done, The Virginia Board of Health would have 280 days from the law’s passing to write new rules for clinics that perform at least five first-trimester abortions a month, according to Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post.
Republicans in the state have long wanted a vote of this nature to make it for a vote, but were always defeated before it got there. This year though, it was put in as part of another piece of legislation and was quickly put up for a vote. It was a surprise that the bill got passed, as the Senate in Virginia is still led by a Democratic majority. However, two Democrats went along with the 18 Republicans, causing a tie vote. The tie is broken by the Republican Lt. Governor. Bill Bolling (R), who voted in favor of the measure.
Though this now places the burden on the Virginia State Board of Health, Abortion Rights groups are fearful of the worst for a women’s right to choose in the state. These groups are pledging to sue this as a result.
Up until this point, clinics in the Commonwealth that performed first-trimester were held to the standards of a doctor’s offices in which procedures along the lines of cosmetic surgeries were done. Now they will be held to a standard more along the lines of outpatient ambulatory surgical centers.