Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has done some crazy things during his short tenure, but now the anti-choice politician has come out swinging against abortion in a state where the issue is already heavily fraught. Earlier this week, Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion, saying that Virginia’s Board of Health should have broad authority to impose restrictions on abortion clinics (the Board will, needless to say, soon be filled with appointees by conservative governor Bob McDonnell). This is a dramatic move, especially since the General Assembly has been trying unsuccessfully to pass restrictions like these on abortion clinics for the past eight years.
Abortion clinics in Virginia are currently regulated like offices where patients receive oral or plastic surgery, but these restrictions would require them to meet hospital-type standards with respect to space and equipment. Hallways would have to be widened to allow two gurneys to pass through the hallway at once (even though many of these facilities don’t use gurneys), swinging doors would have to be installed, and the clinics would have to be located within 15 miles of an emergency room. These, needless to say, are changes that most abortion clinics cannot afford.
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene estimated that 17 of the 21 abortion providers would have to close down if the Board of Health imposed the restrictions. Combined with the fact that 86% of Virginia counties have no abortion provider, Cuccinelli’s order could effectively render abortion inaccessible for most Virginia women.
I grew up in Virginia, and as a veteran of pro-choice lobby days in the mid-2000′s, while I was in high school, I’m very familiar with the targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws that were introduced and rejected each year. Cuccinelli supported those failed bills while he was in the state senate, and is now trying to circumvent the General Assembly.
Cuccinelli is claiming that this is about protecting a pregnant woman’s health and safety. But clearly, this is not about women’s health, it’s about Cuccinelli’s own extreme ideology. Surgical abortion is one of the safest types of medical procedures. And Cuccinelli’s regulations would actually have the opposite effect – by reducing women’s access to early abortion, he increases the possibility that women will seek later-term, riskier procedures.
In an editorial published on Wednesday, the Washington Post put it succinctly: “Virginia lawmakers have repeatedly rejected efforts to enact legislation that could seriously limit that right in the state. Politicians should not now try to achieve this dubious goal through regulatory sleight of hand. “
What’s clear is that Cuccinelli does not want Virginia women to have access to abortion. And he’s willing to stop them by any means necessary.
Photo from Flickr.