RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's health commissioner recommended Wednesday that the state Board of Health amend abortion clinic regulations established under the McDonnell administration, including a provision requiring the facilities to meet the same strict building standards as new hospitals.
In a letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Dr. Marissa Levine recommended taking a new look at the regulations that were passed in 2011 and took effect in June 2013. The board will vote Dec. 4 on whether to revisit the regulations.
Anti-abortion activists vigorously opposed the construction standards, saying they were designed to put existing clinics out of business. Most of Virginia's 18 abortion clinics would require expensive revisions to meet the building standards. Opponents argue that the standards deal with things like hallway widths and closet sizes that have nothing to do with patient safety.
"I am thrilled with Commissioner Levine's decision today to put medicine before politics and amend these dangerous restrictions," said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.
The Family Foundation of Virginia, which supports the regulations, also welcomed the review. While the foundation supports the construction standards, spokesman Chris Freund noted that Levine's letter also mentioned her desire to amend regulations dealing with things like drug handling, parental consent and anesthesia services.
"The areas that she has chosen for review for the most part are areas where the facilities have been abysmal," Freund said.
Levine said more than 14,000 people commented on the regulations during a 45-day public comment period leading up to her recommendation. The vast majority sought repeal of the regulations, but Levine said the board does not have that authority under state law.