Activists, Marshall lobby McDonnell on abortion clinic regulations
More than 150 people, including Del. Bob Marshall (R), gathered outside the state Capitol on a crisp Thursday to pressure Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell to direct the state Board of Health to further regulate abortion clinics in Virginia.
Activists waved signs reading "Governor McDonnell Regulate Clinics" and "Governor McDonnell Please Act." A man dressed like George Washington carried a poster that said, "Be a Patriot. Vote Pro-Life. Protect the Unborn."
"Governor, we are asking you to exercise your authority, your conscience, your responsibility, and you have an attorney general who will defend you," Marshall said to the crowd.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) issued a legal opinion in August, saying the Board of Health has the authority to regulate clinics in response to legislators who asked whether the state can regulate facilities that provide first-trimester abortions as well as the medical personnel who perform them.
Anti-abortion activists, including Marshall of Prince William, who requested the legal opinion, have been asking McDonnell to implement the regulations ever since.
McDonnell, who did not attend the rally, told reporters later that he wants the legislature to pass a bill to regulate abortion clinics.
"I'm glad the people in the pro-life community are saying what they believe,'' he said. "I have been a strong advocate for the pro-life position in my 18 years in office and will continue to be. I support a bill to make sure all outpatient surgery centers are treated exactly the same whether it's an abortion clinic or any other kind of clinic. I think people may not understand how the regulatory process works. I appoint the boards. I don't direct the board on what to do. This board is made up of primarily Governor Kaine appointees, so there are some other political realities as well."
The governor appoints the 15 board members. Former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) named eleven board members.
Anti-abortion legislators -- including Cuccinelli, who served in the state Senate, and McDonnell, who served in the House -- supported bills that would have treated abortion clinics as ambulatory surgery centers and required them to meet hospital-type regulations with regard to equipment and space.
Currently, abortion clinics are regulated the same way as offices where patients receive oral or plastic surgery.
As we told you earlier, Cuccinelli (R) and the conservative Family Foundation declined to participate in the rally to avoid "confronting" McDonnell after they found out that organizers designed the event to pressure the governor.
Both Cuccinelli (R) and the Family Foundation chaplain, Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., had been scheduled to attend the rally.
Several activists questioned their absence. "Now is not the time to play politics with the lives unborn children,'' said Steve Waters, former president of Virginia Christian Alliance who was communications liaison for the rally. "Ken Cuccinelli is a profound friend and leader for the pro-life movement. I wish only to see him remain a leader for the rights of the unborn child as he has done so, like Bob Marshall, and not be politically expedient on the issue as our governor has."
Abortion providers fear that clinics won't be able to afford the costs of making the changes and will shut down or increase their prices. They predict that if the Board of Health imposes the restrictions, 17 of 21 facilities in the state would most likely have to close their doors.
| January 13, 2011; 6:31 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, Ken Cuccinelli, Robert F. McDonnell
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