Cuccinelli issues opinion on abortion clinics

Proposed regulations could add to financial pressures facing abortion facilities

Virginia Attorney General and University alumnus Ken Cuccinelli declared Monday that the state has the authority to regulate abortion clinics in a legal opinion.

Cuccinelli asserted that the state has the right to such oversight so long as the regulations uphold the constitutional limitations set forth by the United States Court of Appeals and Supreme Court in cases such as Roe v. Wade.

Many state legislators, including Cuccinelli when he was a state senator, have proposed bills that would have forced reproductive centers to meet the standards of an outpatient surgical hospital, but the General Assembly has rejected similar motions in the past. Cuccinelli's opinion, should it lead to stricter regulation, may potentially circumvent the legislature and simply go before the Board of Health, and in turn, affect the operations of abortion clinics across the state.

"It would have some far-reaching effects on centers," said David Nova, vice president of Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Inc., adding that the measure would be "prohibitively expensive in some cases."

Many women's health centers worry that if more stringent guidelines are enacted, as many as 17 out of the 21 clinics in Virginia will be forced to close because of a lack of funding to meet new state requirements. The University Health System, meanwhile, is still evaluating what the ruling could mean for its operations, said David Foreman, public relations coordinator for the Medical School.\n"Until we get guidance from the Board of Health, then we won't know," Foreman said.

The Charlottesville Health Center actually was built to incorporate the architectural standards of an outpatient surgical hospital, Nova said, in anticipation that government officials would impose sweeping new regulations on Planned Parenthood.

Isaac Wood, media relations coordinator for the Center for Politics, said he was not startled by the news.

Cuccinelli "is certainly vocally pro-life," Wood said. "If people are still surprised by how active he is as an attorney general, then they probably haven't been paying attention."

Two members of the Virginia state legislature, however, have petitioned the attorney general for his opinion on whether the state has the ability to impose regulations on abortion clinics. Some legislators have also seen Cuccinelli's action as an extreme application of his personal views.

"It is frightening to think of what Cuccinelli will do next," said Del. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the House minority whip. "The public needs to understand how reckless he is. He is not working on what is important to Virginia consumers. Instead, he is focusing on his own extreme ideology."

Regardless, Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said Cuccinelli's legal opinion reflects a thorough review of existing laws and relevant court decisions.

"He is required by law to research the legal question and reply with an official legal opinion," Gottstein said.

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