Access to Abortion in Jeopardy in VA

As the Washington Post pointed out Monday, the next governor of Virginia will likely decide the fate of most of the state's abortion clinics. And it's clear that the future of women's health care would be in a dangerous place if put in the hands of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee. His own record is all the proof you need.

Here's what's going on: Virginia, like so many other states, has imposed regulations intended for full-service hospitals on outpatient abortion clinics. In order to stay open, the majority of the clinics would have to renovate their facilities by widening hallways, expanding parking lots, rebuilding janitorial closets, and adding expensive, unnecessary equipment.

The restrictions don't apply to other walk-in clinics, like those that perform oral and cosmetic surgery. Abortion clinics are being singled out, despite the fact that most patients are there for a few hours, at most. (By the way, studies indicate the risk of death from the plastic surgery procedure liposuction is between 20 and 100 per 100,000 — that's one in 1,000 — compared to one death for every one million abortions at or before eight weeks, and one per 29,000 procedures at 16 to 20 weeks.)

Per usual, the ridiculous claim that restrictions like these are becoming law in the name of women's health is blatantly false.

Which is where Cuccinelli comes in. The current Virginia Attorney General intervened two years ago when the state Board of Health voted 7 to 4 in favor of exempting existing clinics from new regulations, warning board members his office would not defend them if they were sued. The board was intimidated and reversed their decision, prompting the health commissioner Karen Remley to resign.

As a result, two of Virginia's busiest abortion clinics, in Northern Virginia and Norfolk, have already closed. If Cuccinelli is elected governor in November, most of the remaining clinics would likely close down within months, since they cannot afford the cost of the mandated regulations.

Aides to the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe think the next governor could protect existing clinics by directing the health commissioner to grant waivers to individual clinics or possibly even by urging that existing clinics not be subject to the regulations, as the Board of Health wanted two years ago.

That idea appears in McAuliffe's latest campaign ad, which features Norfolk-based Dr. Holly Puritz, who says she is "offended" by Cuccinelli anti-choice initiatives. Check it out.

For 30 years I've worked as an OBGYN. My job is to protect the health of women, so I'm particularly offended by Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli wants to make all abortion illegal — even in cases of rape and incest, even to protect a woman's health. I want a governor who's focused on schools and creating jobs, not someone who wants to do my job. Who is Ken Cuccinelli to interfere in the lives of women across Virginia?

Word, Dr. Puritz.

Cuccinelli's campaign responded, with spokeswoman Anna Nix saying:

"Ken Cuccinelli has said very clearly the core focus of his race is job creation and fighting for every Virginian to have an opportunity to succeed. The only person in this race who is focused on divisive issues is Terry McAuliffe. With no economic plan and no grasp on critical issues, McAuliffe has nothing left except divisive attacks."

That's not exactly true. With election day less than two months away, McAuliffe also has a lead in the polls, a cash advantage of $5 million to $2.2 million, and, as of Tuesday, the endorsement of Republican Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. Sessoms joins a list of more than 30 noteworthy Republicans supporting McAuliffe's candidacy.