Citing new state regulations designed to eliminate morst or all abortion clinics in the state, Virginia's health commissioner, Dr. Karen Remley, submitted her resignation on October 18. Although Remley had served the state for four years, her resignation letter indicated that she was not willing to work with some of the new abortion regulations her department would be required to enforce.
The regulations are referred to as TRAP, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. One of the newest tactics used by anti-choice legislatures, TRAP laws don't go after abortion directly by outlawing procedures or creating waiting periods or notification requirements. Instead, the law passed by the Virginia legislature worked by changing the building code that pertained to abortion clinics.
According to the new building code, clinics where abortions are performed are required to have extreme, hospital-like building standards. For example, they must have drinking fountains available, have wider hallways than most outpatient clinics, and covered entrances.
All of these building code requirements add to the cost required to do business as an abortion clinic in Virginia, even though the procedure itself is still legal. Initially, the Virginia Board of Health issued an amendment to the regulations, saying that they intended to grandfather in existing abortion clinics. Without this grandfathering in, no existing abortion clinics in the state of Virginia would have been able to meet the new requirements in time.
However, the Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, did not approve of the Board of Health's amendment. Since the new building regulations were in fact designed to close down clinics, Cuccinelli informed the Board of Health that their amendment was not proper and refused to give them legal assistance until they passed a version of the regulations that did not contain the contested portion.
To ensure that the Virginia Board of Health would pass this revised version of the building regulations with little difficulty, the governor appointed an anti-abortion advocate to the Board of Health before a second vote was held.
Karen Remley had served under both Democratic and Republican governors for the State of Virginia, but resigned after the second vote on the regulations passed, without allowances to grandfather in existing clinics. As the law is currently written, clinics that do not comply with the new rules will be forced to shut down after two years, and many lack the funds to make the necessary building adaptations in time.
Remley's resignation letter stated that she could not continue to serve her role in good faith as long as the Health Commissioner would be required to enforce the new building code rules. Remley stated that she actually agreed with some of the proposed changes to the building code, including enhanced safety requirements for clinics, but could not in good conscience agree to a policy that would shutter existing abortion clinics. Currently, the state has 20 abortion clinics. It is not known how many, if any, will be able to survive the new set of regulations.