Roundup: Cuccinelli At It Again

Beth Saunders

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli declares the state has the authority to regulate abortion clinics as if they were hospitals; and Elisabeth Hasselbeck supports gay marriage?!

Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s activist attorney general, continued his socially conservative agenda this week by declaring that the state has the authority to regulate abortion clinics as if they were hospitals or surgery centers.

How did he come to make the decision? Anti-choice lawmakers he worked with to restrict abortion while in the Virginia legislature asked him to “clarify” the issue. From the Virginia Pilot:

The General Assembly has repeatedly considered and rejected bills that would have placed abortion clinics under regulations similar to those imposed on full-service hospitals and surgery centers. Ken Cuccinelli and Bob Marshall know this because they have both sponsored such bills and watched them die.

Now, though, in the latest episode of an ongoing show of political opportunism, Cuccinelli – currently the attorney general – and Del. Marshall have decided that if they can’t get what they want through the legislature, they’ll try to get it by fiat.

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This week, Cuccinelli’s office opined, in response to a question from Marshall, that abortion clinics can be constrained by the same rules as surgical centers. Since banning abortions would be legally problematic, the goal instead is to make them less accessible and more expensive.

Cuccinelli’s opinion, though, is just that. It is nonbinding. Even so, his tactics reveal a disregard for the very government institutions that are his clients. His opinion shrugs off the legislative branch as obsolete and irrelevant. In Cuccinelli’s world, the will of elected lawmakers can be skirted by 15 appointees on the Board of Health.

The Cavalier Daily, newspaper of the University of Virginia, has more on the end-run around Virginia’s lawmaking body:

Many state legislators, including Cuccinelli when he was a state senator, have proposed bills that would have forced reproductive centers to meet the standards of an outpatient surgical hospital, but the General Assembly has rejected similar motions in the past. Cuccinelli’s opinion, should it lead to stricter regulation, may potentially circumvent the legislature and simply go before the Board of Health, and in turn, affect the operations of abortion clinics across the state.

Early reports from the Washington Post about the decision were not exactly balanced in their reporting, and Rewire’s Jodi Jacobson took the Washington Post to task for its original piece on Cuccinelli’s decision. A Washington Post editorial, however, speaks to some of the issues Jodi addresses:

But do the women of the commonwealth need additional protection? Has the state experienced a spike in abortion-related complications, including those that, as Mr. Marshall suggests, imperil future pregnancies? No, and no.

State medical and health boards already provide oversight of abortion facilities and the medical personnel who perform roughly 25,000 abortions each year. The Virginia Department of Health does not keep statistics on the number of medical complications associated with abortions. But the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on reproductive health and supports legal abortion, reports that less than one-half of 1 percent of abortions performed in the country result in complications that require follow-up medical treatment. The earlier the abortion is performed, the fewer the complications. The Virginia clinics in question perform only first-trimester abortions — the safest of all procedures. The institute provides compelling medical information that a woman’s decision to have an abortion has little to no impact on her ability to give birth later.

As for the activist AG, some Virginia lawmakers are concerned about Cuccinelli’s lack of boundaries. The Cavalier Daily reports:

“It is frightening to think of what Cuccinelli will do next,” said Del. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the House minority whip. “The public needs to understand how reckless he is. He is not working on what is important to Virginia consumers. Instead, he is focusing on his own extreme ideology.”

Look out Virginia. Cuccinelli has already gone after sexual orientation discrimination, pro-choice license plates, and funding for Planned Parenthood. What’s next?

Mini-Roundup: Conservative talk show co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck of The View states she’s in favor of gay marriage! And she believes the government shouldn’t be telling women what to do with their bodies! (Because she’s anti-mandate, not pro-choice.)

Aug 25

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