VA Attorney General encourages legislature to harass abortion providers

by on August 29, 2010  •  In Reproductive rights, States

Virginia state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has issued an official Attorney General's Opinion advising state legislators that they can lawfully single out abortion clinics and force them to comply with the same standards that regulate hospitals. According to The Atlantic, abortion rights groups believe that these regulations would force the majority of the state's clinics out of business.

Cuccinelli's opinion suggests that anti-abortion policies could be adopted by the Board of Health, regulating clinics, or by the Board of Medicine, which supervises physicians. It is addressed to Robert G. Marshall, a member of the VA House of Delegates.

The background for this move is a national anti-abortion strategy to enact TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws that are allowed under the Supreme Court's 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That was the case in which the Court declined to reverse Roe v. Wade, but allowed the states greater leeway in saddling abortion providers with a variety of special procedures, including elaborate "informed consent" protocols, so long as the regulations did not place an "undue burden" on women's access to abortions. Lower courts have since upheld many TRAP laws. The Fourth Circuit, where Virginia is located, established one of the most deferential interpretations of the undue burden standard in upholding a South Carolina TRAP law in Greenville Women's Clinic v. Bryan, 222 F.3d 157 (4th Cir. 2000).

More from The Atlantic:

While he was a Virginia state senator, Cuccinelli pushed for the passage of stringent new regulation of abortion clinics. Tarina Keene, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, explained that Cuccinelli's previous efforts were stymied by a slim Democratic majority in the state Senate that blocked his proposals from reaching the floor. ..

If the board were to follow Cuccinelli's advice, the state's 21 abortion clinics would have to undergo structural renovations and obtain staff members with new qualifications. The cost of these requirements would, Virginia abortion rights advocates estimate, put 17 of the state's 21 clinics out of business.

"We predict it's about $1.5 to $2 million per clinic in extra cost," Keene said. "It's just crazy. And the thing is, it's really just designed to shut these places down. It has nothing to do with medical care."

In March, Cuccinelli sent a letter instructing the state's universities that only the state legislature could adopt a binding anti-discrimination policy, so that university-level attempts to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination were not valid. Because it seemed to invite such discrimination, his opinion brought on a firestorm of criticism, including on campuses, forcing equally conservative VA Gov. Bob McDonnell to distance himself from it. Cuccinelli later posted an "explanation" on the AG office website.

Cuccinelli also filed one of the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the health reform law, and issued yet another AGO declaring that police officers could question anyone they stopped about their immigration status.  What a guy…


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