As of now, the consequences of Attorney General Kenneth "Ken" Cuccinelli's refusal Monday to certify the new
The attorney general's announcement coincided with the launch of http://www.coochwatch.com, a group dedicated to holding the state's chief legal officer accountable. "The attorney general has proven his only agenda is that the regulations are the strictest and most costly in the nation," said group founder Stephanie Arnold, a second-year medical student at
In question are the stringent architectural standards in the proposed permanent regulations for abortion clinics that the Virginia Department of Health sent to the board for approval. In June, the board voted 7-4 to approve the regulations, but included an amendment to "grandfather" in existing clinics. Cuccinelli's office claims that the board overstepped its authority in doing so. Clinics are currently operating under "emergency" regulations that are set to expire at the end of the year.
Cuccinelli's intercession upset the expected progression of the regulations' review — if certified, they would have gone to the Department of Planning and Budget and eventually to the governor. Joe Hilbert, director of government and regulatory affairs for the Virginia Department of Health, which drafted the regulations, says that without the attorney general's certification, they must return to the Board of Health.
"Our proposal is to recommend additional action to the board," he said, noting that the department would be discussing "next steps" with the board's chairman. The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Health isn't until Sept. 14, but the chairman or any three members can call for a special meeting. Whether the board would be considering the original draft regulations or the amended regulations it approved, Hilbert couldn't say. He was unable to comment on what would happen if the board were to uphold its June 15 approval, dismissing it as speculation.
Mike Signer, a Democratic activist and former counsel to the Warner administration, said, "It's important to understand how radical what the attorney general has done. It's like going to your attorney to draw up a will leaving your house to your daughter and the attorney saying 'that's not a good idea.'"
Together with Gov.
In reaction, the Women's Strike Force, a bipartisan coalition formed earlier this year, issued a statement demanding that the regulations be upheld as approved. "The war on Virginia women continues as Attorney General Cuccinelli denies the legitimacy of action taken by the Virginia Board of Health. It is becoming more clear everyday that Cuccinelli is determined to impose his own personal religious beliefs onto all Virginians," said the group' s leader, Katherine Waddell, a former state delegate.
As to the next steps, Kathy Greenier, director of the women's rights project at the