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."