Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to approve new abortion clinic regulations on Monday that the state Board of Health voted to pass in June.
Cuccinelli said the board exceeded its authority by adopting a provision that would excuse existing health clinics from complying with the regulations' extensive and cost-prohibitive new building standards.
The American Civil Liberties Union fired back on Tuesday that it's Cuccinelli who's exceeding his authority, and that he's doing so to advance his own anti-abortion agenda. By refusing to certify the regulations, the ACLU argues, Cuccinelli is trying to force the board to rewrite the rules so that existing abortion clinics will have to either shut down or undergo massive, costly renovations.
"The ACLU of Virginia is greatly disappointed that activist Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli continues to impose his personal political views in the regulatory process," said Katherine Greenier, director of the ACLU of Virginia's Women's Rights Project. "While the Attorney General has the responsibility to review proposed regulations to determine if the Board has the authority to adopt them, the law does not give his Office veto power over the Board's policy decisions about what to include in the final rules. This is a forced interpretation of the law aimed at advancing the Attorney General's anti-choice views."
Cuccinelli's spokesperson, Brian Gottstein, said the attorney general's decision not to certify the rules had nothing to do with his personal views on abortion.
"Our office merely reviews the regulations and certifies whether they are compliant with the law or not," said Gottstein. "We make that determination solely on a legal basis, not on the basis of whether we agree with the policy or not."
Women's health advocates have claimed for months that the political process that resulted in the new clinic rules was fraught with political corruption and misuse of power. One obstetrician who was recruited to help draft the regulations told HuffPost that the rules he and the panel of medical experts wrote and sent to Cuccinelli's office for review were far less restrictive that those that ended up at the Board of Health for a final vote.
Neither Cuccinelli nor Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has been shy about touting anti-abortion views. The same day that Cuccinelli refused to certify the new regulations, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) appointed Dr. John W. Seeds, vice chairman of the anti-abortion group OBGYNS for Life, to the state Board of Health. He told reporters that he also may not approve the new regulations now that they've been amended to allow current abortion clinics to stay open.
"In due course, I'll get those and make a comment on them and we'll see what happens," he said. "But I certainly won't approve legislation that isn't faithful to the intent of the law which I supported."
99 Problems (JAY-Z)
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
We Don't Care (Kanye West)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."