When Herring Demanded Cuccinelli's OpinionMay 13, 2015
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring recently opined that the Virginia Board of Health, the body tasked with creating health and safety standards for Virginia’s multimillion dollar abortion industry, does not have the authority to require abortion centers to meet building standards that other types of hospitals in Virginia must meet. He claims that the centers should be “grandfathered,” as was the wish of the abortion industry in 2012 when the standards were adopted by the Board.
Since Virginia is not a “legislative intent state,” that is, a record of the legislature’s remarks are not kept to prove later should a law be challenged what lawmakers intended by the law, it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly what the General Assembly intended when it adopts a law. But that’s not really the case with abortion health and safety standards.
It’s pretty clear watching the video from the Senate floor debate in 2011 that pro-abortion Senate Democrats sure thought they understood what was intended – that abortion centers would be required to meet the standards and they tasked the Board of Health with doing just that. Just watch the video to hear the rhetoric that “abortion centers will have to close” and “can’t afford” the costly standards. What else but building requirement could they have meant?
Of course, one of the most interesting moments is when then state Senator Mark Herring demands that then Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli draft an opinion on the constitutionality of the proposed bill. There’s a moment rich with irony.
Regardless, there’s little doubt that lawmakers knew exactly what they were adopting in 2011, and understood full well that abortion centers would have to meet the building standards. Mark Herring was there that day; he heard the debate; he heard the rhetoric. He knows what the legislature intended. But instead, he wrote an opinion that agrees with his political position. That’s not a legal opinion, that’s a campaign brochure.