Over the past few weeks, the “advisory panels” formed by Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Dr. Marissa Levine to review changes to Virginia’s abortion center health and safety standards have met twice. The review of the standards is being done at the request of Governor Terry McAuliffe, who received nearly $2 million in campaign contributions from the abortion industry. The Family Foundation has attended each meeting to see exactly what would be recommended, and how the participants would come to their conclusions. One group is tasked with reviewing the construction standards and the other, the “physicians advisory panel,” was tasked with reviewing the other standards.
After the first set of meetings last month, it appeared like no one had any idea what they were doing or what they were tasked with doing. The meetings were, to say the least, chaotic. No one seemed to really have any idea of why they were meeting or how to accomplish their respective missions. The building regulator panel was particularly confusing.
But even at those initial meetings, it was obvious which side of the abortion debate the doctors were on. After all, one of the doctors appointed to the panel performs abortions at a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. She makes her money from the business she’s been appointed to help regulate. Another doctor appointed made it abundantly clear that he is completely on the pro-abortion side. Still, it remained to be seen what they would accomplish through these panels.
At the most recent meetings, however, things were much more organized, and at the end of the day, the true agenda of Governor McAuliffe’s administration became crystal clear. Regardless of the recommendations of the two panels – and there were many, most of which would eliminate even the most basic of the health and safety standards – one of the biggest decisions won’t be in the hands of these advisory panels, of the Commissioner, or even of the Board of Health itself.
It’s in the hands of Attorney General Mark Herring.
You see, while many of the “recommendations” of the doctor panel would actually violate state law, or would once again single out abortion centers from being treated exactly like other similar medical facilities, it is the building standards that the abortion industry wants gone. The only problem is the law requires the standards – something the Commissioner herself admitted. But the abortion industry wants existing abortion centers to be “grandfathered in,” so they don’t have to spend any of their hard earned profit on make changes to their existing abortion centers, like have doors and hallways wide enough for emergency crews to get to patients in distress. In 2012 when the standards were adopted, then Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli concluded that abortion centers could not be grandfathered.
And that’s where the new AG comes in. At one point in the most recent meetings, the doctor panel asked the building panel if “grandfathering” existing abortion centers under the new building standards would be a recommendation of the panel. After some awkward back and forth, Chief Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. David Trump did his best to not say what he ended up saying, but he made it clear that the issue of grandfathering is a legal one so the Department is seeking legal advice from the AG. Trump said that grandfathering “wasn’t an option” when the standards were “presented initially” but that it is something that shouldn’t be “unexpected” from a new AG opinion.
Now we're hearing that opinion could come as soon as today, or sometime this week.
So, the reality is, as we expected, the “advisory panels” are nothing but political cover for what the McAuliffe administration and Attorney General want done on behalf of the abortion industry. You can be sure the abortion industry and media will tout the “recommendations of the medical experts” without mentioning that they are tied hook, line and sinker to the abortion industry, but at the end of the day, the industry knows that AG Herring will give them exactly what they want – regardless of what the law actually says. He’s proven to not be restrained by the actual law.
The good news is, at least for now, the inspections of abortion centers will continue regardless of the AG’s eventual defense of the abortion industry. Health and safety standards regarding keeping facilities sanitary and safe will remain in place, much to the dismay of the abortion industry. But in the very least we will continue to expose what is found in inspection reports so the public knows what is actually going on inside abortion centers.