Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's office confirmed Monday that he recently approved stringent regulations on abortion facilities that opponents say are a backdoor attempt to curb abortions in the state.
The new rules require facilities that perform five or more first-trimester abortions a month to meet the same structural requirements as hospitals, including wider hallways, larger operating rooms and bigger parking lots. The regulations now undergo a 60-day review period before heading to the Board of Health for final approval.
McDonnell approved the regulations Friday but did not publicize the action.
Earlier in the year, the board moved to exempt existing facilities from the controversial new regulations. McDonnell expressed displeasure with that maneuver and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify them. The board then met in September and reversed itself to include all abortion providers.
"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," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said Monday.
Abortion-rights advocates said the elevated standards for abortion provider are overtly burdensome and expensive to meet. They contend it could force many current providers to close their doors.
"Cuccinelli and McDonnell are clearly pushing an ideological agenda that is out of touch with the residents of this state," said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. "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."