Abortion Opponents Savoring a Victory; State Board: No Rules Exemption

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sherfinski, The Washington Times

RICHMOND -- The Virginia Board of Health's move to reverse a June decision and vote to adopt new regulations for abortion clinics in the state without exempting existing facilities delivered an immediate victory for pro-life groups, but long-term effects, both practical and political, are still far from clear.

The board in June voted 7-4 to grandfather existing facilities that perform five or more first-trimester abortions per month into compliance with new permanent rules, which mandate specific guidelines on items such as hallway width and operating-room sizes. The move shocked many conservative advocates of the new regulations, since temporary rules that did not exempt the state's existing facilities were already in place.

But in a July memo, senior Assistant Attorney General Allyson K. Tysinger wrote to Department of Health Commissioner Karen Remley that the attorney general's office would not certify the revised guidelines as part of the regulatory process, saying the board does not have the authority to adopt the amended regulations because they conflict with the legislation passed by the General Assembly last year that directed the board to promulgate the regulations in the first place.

People changed their minds, and they were convinced by the arguments put forward by the attorney general about the appropriateness of the action taken by the legislature, said Dr. James Edmondson Jr., one of two board members out of 15 to vote against the new regulations last week. The legislature has sent us conflicting messages, and, to me, that's going to have to be resolved in the courts, by the legislature itself. I have no idea what to expect over the next year or so.

Democrats immediately tried to paint the board's decision as the result of a power play by Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II and warned of electoral consequences in the future.

State Sen. Barbara Favola, Arlington Democrat, told supporters in a fundraising email sent through the Democratic Party of Virginia that the actions stretched beyond the state level.

It's about right-wing Republicans treating our government like a laboratory for radical and offensive policies, while Virginians look for work, sit in traffic and send their kids to overcrowded schools, she wrote. That's what they're doing in Richmond, and that's what Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and George Allen will do in Washington unless we stop them on November 6th.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Mark R. Herring, Loudoun Democrat, reacted quickly to condemn the board's decision. Mr. Herring has announced that he will run next year to replace Mr. Cuccinelli, who is running for governor.

This episode only underscores the need for an attorney general who will take the politics out of the office and apply laws evenly, Mr. …