After years of effort, lawmakers in Richmond, Virginia, have passed legislation that will require abortion clinics performing more than five first-trimester abortions per month to abide by the same safety regulations as hospitals.
Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) has said he will sign the bill, describing the measure as a “clinic safety issue.” McDonnell told reporters on Thursday, “I think it’s fair to say that all outpatient surgical hospitals or clinics should be regulated in the same way, and I think this bill will do that.”
The vote in the Democratically-controlled Senate was 20-20. Two pro-life Democrats joined eighteen Republicans. As president of the Senate, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (R) cast the deciding vote in favor of Senate Bill 924.
The Virginia Board of Health will have 280 days to write new policies for clinics once the measure is enacted.
Virginia Society for Human Life (VSHL) President Olivia Gans hailed the Senate’s action.
“VSHL has witnessed for years the deliberate obstructionism of the pro-abortion controlled Senate Health and Education Committee which prevented pro-life legislation such as this from getting to the full Senate for a vote,” Gans said.
Recent events in Pennsylvania show what can happen when regulations aren’t in place or enforced, she added. Abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s brutal abortion practice alarmed many Americans and revealed the horrors of an unregulated abortion industry.
“Cases such as these clearly show why it is critical that regulations be placed on abortionists in the Commonwealth,” Gans said. “The lives and safety of women are at clearly stake,” noting the regulations include widened hallways designed to accommodate gurneys during emergencies.
The legislation, as originally written, died in committee earlier this month. But Del. Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg) attached an amendment with the language on abortion clinics to SB924, a bill that dealt with issues involving hospitals and nursing homes. It was this amended SB924 that the Senate voted on yesterday.
Since assuming office in 2006, Lt. Gov. Bolling has broken 16 tied votes, according to the Washington Post.
“Up until now, we have had very little regulatory oversight over abortion clinics,” Bolling said in a statement. “I have always felt that we needed more regulations in place to assure patient safety at these facilities, and more authority for the Department of Health to inspect these facilities. This legislation will give us the ability to do this and I think that is something everyone should support.”
The bill was introduced in the Senate by a Republican– Sen. Ryan McDougle (Hanover) and could not have passed without the support of two pro-life Democrats–Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell), and Sen. Charles Colgan (D-Prince William).
Ms. Gans noted, “In Virginia, as in every other place, the abortion issue cuts across party lines, religious lines and any other divider—it is the essential human rights question of our day.”
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