Abortion supporters hailed a vote by the State Board of Health a victory. The controversial decision could eliminate part of a new state regulation for abortion clinics that some say would have crippled the existing facilities.
Now, some have questioned whether the decision was even legal.
The regulation was part of a new law that required all abortion clinics to meet similar building standards to a new hospital. Many expressed concern that this set of requirements could be so costly for existing providers that as many as 20 of 23 abortion clinics in the Commonwealth may have to close.
The board debated extensively on the issue, even voting twice after one member decided to switch a vote to "against". The Virginia Board of Health decided to exempt existing abortion clinics from a the new law, grandfathering them in under existing safety regulations.
"Basically telling the politicians that they can't do what they would like to do, but that we've got constitutional obligations ourselves, we have responsibilities to public health that they can't simply trample over because they wish it were so," said board member James Edmondson.
Abortion supporters lined the entrance of the building and filled the meeting room all day, intent on protecting what they view as jobs and human rights.
"People immediately burst into tears and they were tears of relief," said Daryl Brown, a feminist and abortion supporter. "Because at that time a lot of the people in the room were abortion providers. Their jobs were on the line, their passion was on the line."
"We were wondering if we were going to have to close down our facility at the end of next year because of the architectural guidelines," said Shelley Abrams. Abrams who works at A Capital Women's Health Clinic which provides abortions.
The celebration may be short lived, however. Officials said this decision hardly changes anything. They've already been told the Board's decision may be illegal and pro-life supporters say this is just the start of the debate.
"The Attorney General will have a whack at it and he will say that we committed a heinous crime by approving them, the Governor will have a whack at it," said Edmondson.
"It still has to go back to the Attorney General's Office, back to the Governor, back to the Board," said Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation. "So I really just see this as one more piece in the discussion by Virginians about what our safety standards need to be."
Ultimately, the Governor will have the final say on the issue.
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