As we noted yesterday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion Friday that clearly explains the legal basis on which the Commonwealth of Virginia can regulate abortion centers absent legislation by the General Assembly. While laws are more lasting, his advisory opinion —sought by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Roanoke) and Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) — means that abortion centers operating in Virginia can be regulated by the executive branch through the state's normal regulatory process. Providing safety standards for Virginia's abortion centers have been a legislative priority for The Family Foundation for many years. Until the mid-1980s, abortion centers in Virginia were regulated. Unfortunately, the administration of then-Governor Chuck Robb repealed those regulations due to constitutional concerns. Since that time, however, as the attorney general's opinion notes, federal appeals courts have ruled that such regulations are constitutional. Yet, in Virginia, abortion centers continue to be regarded by the state as doctors' offices, which require no emergency equipment for resuscitation or hemorrhage, despite the fact that abortion is a major invasive surgical procedure.
The Family Foundation has worked for years in the General Assembly for common sense legislation to improve safety standards in abortion centers to equal those required for ambulatory (outpatient) surgery centers. Of course, the abortion industry in Virginia — Planned Parenthood and NARAL — fight with all their political muscle against these safety standards for women in their abortion centers. Each year its allies on the Committee of Death (Senate Education and Health Committee) reject simple requirements such as an annual inspection and having a defibrillator on site.
They argue that the abortion procedure is safe, despite the fact that the state doesn't have any reporting requirements for complications due to abortion (also fought against by the abortion industry), so there is no way to really know. They also argue that abortion centers shouldn't be "singled out" for regulation.
What they don't say is that other outpatient surgery businesses are self-regulated through respected, national accreditation organizations that require significant safety measures for their seal of approval. No such respected accreditation group exists for abortionists.
The Attorney General's opinion gives Governor Bob McDonnell's administration the opportunity to create necessary regulations for abortion centers without approval from the General Assembly. Since state agencies such as the Board of Health already have the power to regulate medical facilities this is not a new policy or a policy change that should require legislation. Previous governors simply have not acted on this ability. This opinion now clears the legal path to such needed action.