As Monica mentions, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has issued an opinion that would allow the state's health board to issue regulations applying burdensome space and equipment regulations to abortion clinics. He has issued this despite having previously failed to impose the change through legislation. Gov. Robert McDonnell has used new innovations in Orwellian language to defend these regulatory changes:
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the administration is reviewing the opinion. "The governor is a longstanding supporter of ensuring that abortion clinics, and their medical personnel, are treated equally with other out-patient surgical hospitals by the commonwealth to ensure services are provided in a safe manner,'' he said.
"Equality," of course, is the last thing on the minds of proponents of requiring abortion clinics to have space requirements similar to hospitals. Instead, these regulations are a particularly odious example of the arbitrary obstacle course some states have enacted to restrict abortion access. While they take the superficial form of "health" regulations, in practice of course such regulations are not directed at any legitimate health concern or danger; they simply make it more difficult for abortion clinics to operate.
Unfortunately, it will be up to the integrity of Virginia's Board of Health and/or the Virginia Legislature to protect the health and safety of Virginia's women from Cuccinelli. The Supreme Court gave the green light to all matter of arbitrary regulations in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the current Court is if anything more conservative than it was when the decision was issued. And at least one lower federal court opinion has held that shutting abortion clinics down via regulations does not violate Casey's "undue burden" standard even if the state cannot provide evidence that abortion clinics being different than hospitals jeopardizes women's health. Until we have a Court willing to take Roe seriously, the situation will get worse.
-- Scott Lemieux