Virginia board to amend rules that would close abortion clinics

By Reuters

Dec 04, 2014 07:46 PM EST

A Virginia health panel remade by the Democratic governor voted on Thursday to revamp rules that threatened to shut down abortion clinics across the state

In a victory for abortion rights advocates, the state Board of Health voted 13-2 to begin amending regulations that require abortion clinics to have standards similar to hospitals.

The board put the requirement in place in 2013 when then-Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican, appointed abortion foes to the panel.

Supporters said the move was to improve patient safety, but abortion rights supporters countered that it was aimed at limiting women's rights and closing clinics.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe took office as governor in January and began remaking the health board with members who supported abortion rights.

Several clinics have closed since the stricter rules were passed, leaving the state with 18 offering abortion services.

In a statement, McAuliffe praised the board for its action to keep the clinics open. He said they were "facing closure due to onerous regulations that were the result of politics being inserted into the regulatory process."

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, which opposes abortion, said the regulations enacted in 2013 should stand.

"Regardless of Governor McAuliffe's wish, the Board of Health must follow the law," she said.

Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said in a statement that the board had acted properly.

Planned Parenthood operates seven health centers across Virginia and serves more than 24,000 patients annually.

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