RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA) - A victory in Virginia on Friday for abortion rights supporters. The Virginia Board of Health eliminated the most hotly contested provision in the state's new abortion clinic regulations, which critics argued would force most of the clinics to close.
The board voted 7-4 to strike a requirement that existing clinics meet the same strict building standards as new hospital construction. Only newly constructed clinics would be held to those standards.
Critics have argued the regulations could force the closure of most of the 20 clinics that have applied for a license.
The board ignored the advice of the attorney general's office, which said the 2011 law requiring the regulations mandates the tougher standards.
Outside before the meeting, a few hundred protestors shouted and stood silent expressing their opposition to new abortion clinic regulations expected to be approved by the Virginia Department of Health today.
Dozens of people, including four doctors opposed to the new recommendations, told the board that they're not medically necessary, and approving them would put politics over science.
They said the most onerous measure requiring extensive and expensive structural changes, such as wider hallways, and larger exam rooms could put clinics out of business, and healthcare out of reach for thousands of low income women.
One neurologist pointed out that other types of practitioners, such as himself, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists and gastroentologists perform more invasive procedures than first trimester abortions, yet do not face such regulations.
Board members then began a heated discussion about their duty and whether they had to take the advice of Attorney General Ken Cucinelli.
After a tough fight, the board voted 7 to 4 to approve an amendment that grandfathers in all the existing facilities.
It's unclear if the regulations and the amendment that the board voted on Friday will make their way into law. These now go back to the executive branch, including the Governor and Attorney General Ken Cuchinellli, who may not be in favor of the amendment.
Then there's a six-day public comment period, and back here to board, so it's still up in their air.