Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has declared the Commonwealth has the legal authority to regulate abortion clinics in the state.
"The state has long regulated outpatient surgical facilities and personnel to ensure a certain level of protection for patients. There is no reason to hold facilities providing abortion services to any lesser standard for their patients," said Brian J. Gottstein, a spokesman for Cuccinelli., said Friday.
"Even pharmacies, funeral homes and veterinary clinics are regulated by the state," he said.
State abortion providers have harshly criticized the pro-life, Republican attorney general's decision.
"We've been waiting for the attorney general to take on abortion providers, and it looks like this is his first pitch," said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. "These so-called regulations are only an attempt to shut down abortion clinics in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Pro-choice advocates say the ruling could force 17 of Virginia's 21 abortion providers to close because they can't afford to make the changes new regulations may require.
Ralph K. Smith, R-Roanoke, said the legal opinion sets the stage for regulating abortion clinics like other medical facilities.
"As long as abortions in certain conditions are legal," Smith told Washington, D.C. television station WJLA. "Then we want a safe environment for them to be performed."