| RICHMOND, Va.
RICHMOND, Va. May 12 Virginia Governor Terry
McAuliffe, a Democrat, on Monday ordered a review of "extreme
and punitive" state health rules that make it harder to operate
abortion clinics, saying he would protect women's rights to make
The review by the state Board of Health could overturn 2013
regulations set down by the previous Republican administration
that forced abortion clinics to meet stricter hospital-style
Under the tighter regulations, five of Virginia's 23 clinics
that offer abortions have closed. Abortion rights advocates
contend that the remaining 18 are threatened.
"I am concerned that the extreme and punitive regulations
adopted last year jeopardize the ability of most women's health
centers to keep their doors open and place in jeopardy the
health and reproductive rights of Virginia women," McAuliffe
said in a statement that coincided with National Women's Health
The regulations were spearheaded by former Attorney General
Ken Cuccinelli, McAuliffe's opponent for governor last year and
a favorite of the conservative Republican Tea Party faction.
During the campaign, McAuliffe said he would stand as "brick
wall" against efforts to erode women's rights to abortion.
McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National
Committee, also told a news conference he was appointing five
new members to the 15-member Board of Health.
McAuliffe's review order underscored his liberal stance on
social issues. His administration also declined to defend a
state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the courts.
Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of
Virginia, an anti-abortion group, called McAuliffe's move
"grandstanding" for abortion rights campaigners.
But Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned
Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, applauded McAuliffe's
decision. She said it showed that women's health issues would be
decided on the basis of medicine, not politics.
The Falls Church Healthcare Center in northern Virginia has
filed suit challenging the new regulations.
McAuliffe said keeping the health clinics open was also an
economic issue since Virginia needed to be "open and welcoming
to all" in order to spur economic growth.
(Editing by Ian Simpson and David Gregorio)