Lake Erie Conservative

thoughtful discussion(s) about issue(s)

… Nice Going , Terry ! … [McAuliffe , on Abortion]

Posted by paulfromwloh on Thursday,September 19th,2013

English: Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cucc...

English: Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

.. if Terry McAuliffe wanted to make the choice on abortion more stark in November ‘ s governor ‘ s election in Virginia , well , he made it even more prescient and stark …

.. The Virginia Legislature has passed and the Governor has signed new rules governing the conduct and the regulation of

McAuliffe speaking at Frying Pan Park in Hernd...

McAuliffe speaking at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, VA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

abortion clinics . These new rules cover them being governed under rules that have been promulgated by the Virginia Board of Health

.. However, multiple current and former state officials, both Democrat and  Republican, say they are unaware of any formal power of the governor’s office to  issue something like that to the Board of Health, which approved the  regulations.

.. Published reports this year indicate that all the remaining abortion clinics  were granted temporary licenses last year giving them two years to remain open  and meet the new requirements, although pro-choice groups have said the  necessary renovations are prohibitively expensive. The standards call for such things as mandatory inspections of facilities and  include provisions on staff training, sanitation requirements and hospital-type  construction codes.

Regardless, lawyers in the office of Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli,  Mr. McAuliffe’s Republican opponent for governor, said they were not familiar  with anything called a guidance opinion that can be issued by a Virginia  governor.

“Moreover, the governor does not have the power to issue an edict to ignore a  law passed by the General Assembly,” Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein  said.

In fact, the phrase “guidance opinion” appears nowhere in Virginia code or in  the state Constitution.

Maribeth Brewster, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Health, said  she cannot recall the board ever receiving a guidance opinion from a  governor. The board could receive different legal advice on the extent of the  regulations, though that power would lie with the attorney general and not the  governor.

.. The issue emerges amid a series of stumbles that Republicans have seized upon  involving Mr. McAuliffe’s lack of experience in elective politics. Earlier this  year, the Democrat told the Virginian-Pilot he wasn’t sure whether he could name  the positions in the governor’s Cabinet. Members of the Northern Virginia  Technology Council’s political arm told The Washington Post last week that he  came across as “uninformed and superficial” in the interview for the group’s  endorsement.

But former Health Commissioner Karen Remley said Mr. McAuliffe consulted her  on the issue of the clinics and that there is a way to keep the facilities open  without the board and without going to the General Assembly.

The power effectively would lie with Mr. McAuliffe through the health  commissioner he selects, said Dr. Remley, who was appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine, a  Democrat, and reappointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican.

The health commissioner has the ability to issue waivers when the board is  not in session for everything from restaurant owners to people digging wells who  can demonstrate “undue hardship” as a result of regulations, Dr. Remley  said.

But a second way would be to have the governor or the health commissioner  reinterpret the sources from which the board drafted the regulations, she  said.

She gave a hypothetical example of a hallway width requirement of 60 inches  and a facility where the halls are 58 inches wide.

“Rather than have arbitrary, rigid restrictions, these inspectors should have  guidance documents that allow them to thoughtfully apply” which ones are  relevant, said Dr. Remley, who resigned in October citing the new  regulations.

“A lot of the confusion in the political world is that it’s an all-or-none,”  she said. “The current attorney general interpreted them to be black and white.  That was his advice, not necessarily the law.  I think there is a solution that  finds the middle of the road.”

Mr. Gottstein disagreed, saying the language in the regulations is “clear and  unambiguous.”

.. “Since regulations have the force of law, an agency cannot give ‘guidance’  that contradicts or supersedes them by giving discretion to approve facilities  that aren’t in compliance with those guidelines,” he said.

..The bill that set into motion the process of developing the regulations  passed in 2011 and was one of the most contentious pieces of legislation the  General Assembly has considered in recent years.

..Opponents say the standards were intended to shut down most of the state’s  abortion clinics, while sponsors say the guidelines were meant to make  facilities that perform five or more abortions per month safer for women.

The conservative Family Foundation, citing results from open-records  requests, pointed to dozens of health and safety violations found at centers in  the state. The reports included mentions of dried blood found on a procedural  table and infractions for the way clinics stored and dispensed drugs.

..The Board of Health passed emergency guidelines that did not exempt existing  facilities in the fall of 2011 but bucked advice from Mr. Cuccinelli’s office  last year and passed permanent regulations that did exempt existing facilities  already in operation from the most strict regulations. The attorney general’s  office reportedly suggested it would not defend board members if their decision  was challenged, however, and members subsequently reversed their decision.

If the new attorney general disagreed with Mr. Cuccinelli’s interpretation,  Ms. Remley said, “then that attorney general would have to clearly say that it’s  illegal to interpret the guidelines not as they are written.”

“If the health department says, ‘This would guarantee safety,’ I think the  prudent Virginian would say, ‘That makes sense,’ ” she said.


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