Governor Sued!Mar 21, 2017
Family Foundation Announces Impending Legal Action
- McAuliffe Administration Notified Today -
RICHMOND–The Family Foundation of Virginia today announced that the administration of Governor Terry McAuliffe has been notified of impending legal action regarding violations of state law by the Department and Board of Health during the abortion center health and safety standards regulatory process.
“Over and over again during the nearly three-year process of amending the standards, the administration and Board violated the Administrative Process Act, the state law that provides the framework for regulatory action, the administrative code, and the Governor’s own Executive Order 17 regarding the regulatory review process,” said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation. “Regardless of one’s belief about the need for basic health and safety standards for abortion centers – or of any regulation for that matter – we all have to agree that a regulatory body cannot act outside the law when it wields extraordinary power over business, commerce and health care. We have the Administrative Process Act for that reason, to provide legal boundaries and process for unelected regulatory bodies, to provide transparency and public input throughout the regulatory process, and to be able to hold these agencies accountable when they go beyond the scope of their authority.”
Details of the administrative appeal were not released, but will be made available when the action is filed in Henrico Circuit Court within the next thirty days. The Family Foundation is paying the legal fees for one appellant in the appeal, Itzel Melendez, from Richmond. At a Richmond press conference today, Mrs. Melendez said, “In the past, I had occasion to visit an abortion center for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. I am participating in this case because I am concerned that without basic health and safety standards, abortion centers will operate in a way that could put my health at risk if I ever decided in the future that I needed their services. The standards that were in place were there to protect women like me from harm. Without them, I am no longer confident that my health would be protected.”
Cobb did reference one of the examples of where the pro-family organization believes the administration broke the law. She stated, “The agency violated the Administrative Process Act by amending entirely separate and unrelated regulatory sections that had not been included in the regulations’ “Proposed” phase. Several regulatory sections amended by the Board were not included in the “Proposed Regulation Agency Background Document” posted in townhall.gov, and these regulatory sections dealt with matters the public did not have an opportunity to comment on in accordance with the requirements of the law.
“In addition, several regulatory sections the Board amended were not even in the agency’s “Final Regulation Agency Background Document” posted in townhall.gov, let alone its “Proposed Regulation Agency Background Document”. The Code of Virginia requires that the notice requirement contain “(i) a statement of the date, time and place of the hearing at which the regulation is to be considered; (ii) a brief statement as to the regulation under consideration; [and] (iii) reference to the legal authority of the agency to act; ….” Yet, that never occurred for all of the regulatory topics for the sections that were not included in the agency’s “Proposed” regulations. This is an important matter of transparency – providing to the public a clear list what areas of regulation are intended to be reviewed and amended. The public and the entities being regulated should know from the beginning what areas of regulation the agency intends to change. By avoiding disclosing all the areas the Department and Board intended to amend they violated both the letter and spirit of the law.
“In this case, the Department and Board initially indicated they would review and amend only six areas of the regulations, and instead ended up changing more than 20. The public had no ability to weigh in on these changes until after the Board had already voted.”
Cobb said, “There is a specific, detailed, and yes sometimes cumbersome regulatory process that, whether we like it or not, is the law of Virginia. Without a framework, and without criteria and accountability for regulatory agencies, one can only imagine the damage that could be done in any arena by regulatory bodies.”
“The Family Foundation fully supports the actions taken by these appellants,” added Cobb. “It is unfortunate that the McAuliffe administration has in its ideological zeal consistently ignored or violated state law throughout this process, but it must be held accountable for those actions. The regulatory process has rules that must be followed. Again, this appeal is about that legal process and this administration’s ignorance of or disdain for that process.”
Appellants in the case who appeared at today’s press conference were Virginia Board of Health members Megan Getter and Henry Kuhlman, and Itzel Melendez of Richmond. The attorney representing Mrs. Melendez is Dan Carrell of Carrell, Blanton Ferris and Associates, Richmond.