Legislators voted Thursday to make Virginia the first state to require clinics that provide first-trimester abortions to meet the same standards as hospitals.
The Senate deadlocked on the issue, and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote after hours of floor debate.
Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Campbell, tacked the amendment onto a Senate bill that dealt with infection prevention and disaster preparedness at hospitals and nursing homes. Doing so allowed the bill to sidestep a Senate committee notorious for killing anti-abortion legislation and force a vote on the Senate floor, where Democrats hold a tiny majority.
The bill requires all facilities that perform five or more first-trimester abortions each month to be categorized as hospitals, which are subject to strict guidelines regarding everything from the structural layout, staffing and equipment to how laundry is done and food is served.
"I think it's a sad day for women in Virginia," said Laura Meyers, of Planned Parenthood. "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."
Abortion supporters warned of legal challenges if clinics shut down, cutting off access to the procedures for the poor and those in rural communities.
The bill now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Catholic who supports the proposal.
"I think it's fair to say that all outpatient, surgical hospitals or clinics should be regulated in the same way," he said. "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."