This week, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring took another step toward securing his legacy as the most politically motivated and divisive AG in Virginia history when he released an opinion saying that Virginia abortion centers are not bound by the law to meet building construction standards as adopted by the Board of Health. His opinion flies in the face of the very reason the legislature passed a law requiring health and safety standards in the first place. The attorney general issued an opinion that matched his political rhetoric; the definition of politicizing the office. After we learned of the opinion, which reads far more like a press release than a normal Attorney General legal opinion, my staff watched the nearly two hour debate that took place in the state Senate in 2011 when the law was adopted and it was abundantly clear that the expectation of those lawmakers was that abortion centers would have to meet these standards. Pro-abortion Senators lamented that the law would be too “costly” and “close abortion clinics,” recognizing that the law would require them to meet these important standards.
One of the Senators who argued against the law was Mark Herring.
Despite hundreds of health and safety violations, including unsanitary conditions, and multiple violations of state and federal drug laws in Virginia’s abortion centers, Governor McAuliffe and the Attorney General continue their political payback to an abortion industry that gave them over $2 million in campaign contributions. Consequently, it's not surprising that the Attorney General is inserting his political agenda by ignoring the will of the legislature. He has proven time and again that he believes he is not bound by the law.
This decision will put women who have a medical emergency in an abortion center, a fairly regular occurrence, at risk when emergency personnel can't get to them with life-saving equipment because the doors and hallways aren't wide enough. Once again, the abortion industry is being singled out from having to meet basic health and safety standards.
The good news is that, despite the wishes of both the Governor and Attorney General who want all the health standards repealed, inspections will continue and the abortion industry will continue to be exposed for putting profit ahead of women’s health. Now the question becomes, as more and more unsanitary conditions are found and as more abortion centers are found to have violated state and federal drug laws, will the Virginia Department of Health do anything to correct these serious problems? Or will it too become nothing but a puppet of the McAuliffe administration and ignore both the law and the health of women.
And finally, as the McAuliffe/Herring regime continues, the General Assembly has to determine how marginalized it wants to be. Obviously, there are no easy answers, and the GA has fought back on issues like Medicaid expansion and has adopted resolutions saying it will go to court to defend Virginia law, but is that enough? Are there other steps that need to be taken before Richmond becomes a carbon copy of Washington, DC? I know legislators are just as frustrated with these lawless acts, but at some point we need to draw a line and make it clear to both the Governor and Attorney General that they are not above the law.