The 26 pages of regulations include physical requirements for clinics, allow inspectors to make unannounced visits and require that clinics work with hospitals to provide emergency care. The rules also allow the state’s health commissioner to suspend or revoke a clinic’s license, and they require that clinics have infection-prevention plans and that anesthesia be administered by a doctor.
The rules would apply to any Virginia clinic that provides five or more first-trimester abortions a month. About 25,000 abortions were performed in Virginia last year, including those at hospitals and doctor’s offices, according to the state Health Department. Virginia law requires that second-trimester abortions be performed at hospitals.
The Board of Health has nine members appointed by McDonnell and six appointed by McDonnell’s predecessor, Timothy M. Kaine (D). Two Kaine appointees were absent from the meeting.
Fourteen amendments, many offered by Kaine appointee James H. Edmondson Jr. to ease the regulations, were defeated, many after Assistant Attorney General Allyson Tysinger told members that they were outside the board’s jurisdiction.
“I’m just offended by that advice,’’ Edmondson said at one point before voting against the regulations.
Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), a lawyer who spoke against the regulations, accused Tysinger of acting at the behest of her boss, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), who opposes abortion rights and issued an opinion that the state could issue regulations.
“The heavy hand of government was at work today as the attorney general’s office advised the Virginia Board of Health members that accepting some of the most reasonable amendments to the draft regulations was beyond their authority,’’ she said.
Four amendments were adopted to protect health records, decrease the number of inspections, ease the fee for clinics the first year and mandate that inspectors identify themselves.
The regulations will go to Cuccinelli and McDonnell for review. “We will review the regulations as approved by the board in the weeks ahead,’’ McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell said Thursday.
Regulatory changes by the Board of Health typically take as long as two years to implement. But state officials have been rushing to adopt new rules after the General Assembly voted this spring to mandate that they be written no more than 280 days after a bill was signed into law.