Revised abortion clinic regulations that include strict building standards have been certified by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
McDonnell certified the regulations on Dec. 28. Following a 60-day public comment period, the regulations will go back to the state Board of Health for a final vote, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Wednesday.
The new regulations require abortion clinics to meet the same strict building standards as new hospitals. Abortion-rights advocates argue that the strict standards could force most of Virginia's 20 clinics out of business.
The board initially exempted existing clinics from the tough construction standards, but Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify those standards. Cuccinelli, an anti-abortion Republican, contended that the board exceeded its authority and suggested that he might refuse to represent any member sued over the issue.
Cuccinelli later certified the regulations after the board altered them to include all facilities. Existing clinics will have until the latter half of 2014 to comply with the new regulations.
"Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and McDonnell are clearly pushing an ideological agenda that is out of touch with the residents of this state - they have been using elected office to play political games with the health of women, and they may succeed in passing some of the most extreme state abortion laws in the country while ignoring the will of Virginians," Tarina Keen, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said in a statement.
McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin said the regulations stem from legislation passed in 2011 by the General Assembly, and that they followed the same process that all proposed changes to regulations undergo in Virginia.
"The governor believes these common-sense regulations will help ensure that this medical procedure takes place in facilities that are modern, safe and well-regulated, in order to help ensure the safety and well-being of all patients,'' Martin told the newspaper.
Former Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley resigned in October 2012 over the new regulations. She wrote in her resignation letter to McDonnell that her ability to fulfill her duties had been compromised by the development, enforcement and interpretation of the regulations outside her office.
McDonnell has not named a replacement for Remley.