New regulations governing abortion clinics have been signed into law by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
The law requires clinics that offer first-trimester abortions to meet the same health standards required of hospitals.
The state Department of Health now has to decide how that standard will be applied to the 21 clinics currently operating in the state. Changes may include widening hallways, giving staff more training, and purchasing new equipment. Detailed regulations must be delivered by September 15, and will go into effect January 1 next year.
The bill's opponents say the law will push many clinics that offer abortions out of business. "I think it is a sad day for women in Virginia," Laura Meyers, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, said when the law passed through Va. senate. "This bill, which has absolutely nothing to do with the health or safety of women, will merely drive up the cost of abortion care for women and curtail access."
Virginia's new law follows a nation-wide trend of more restrictive abortion regulations. This month, the governor of South Dakota signed a bill that will impose a three-day waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion, the longest in the country. A bill in Ohio is being debated now that would prevent abortions after the first heartbeat in the fetus is detected - which could be in the sixth week of pregnancy.
Abortion rights supporters wrote McDonnell a letter urging him to amend the bill, the Washington Post reported. The supporters said that if the primary purpose of the bill was hygiene, than all doctors offices, including ones that perform spinal taps and colonoscopies.
"This bill is really about a clinic safety issue and will do a lot to make sure that every level of clinic is treated the same," the governor said when the bill passed through legislature. No amendments were made to the bill McDonnell signed on Monday.