Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office Wednesday gave its stamp of approval to new abortion clinic regulations that will compel existing clinics to retrofit their facilities to meet standards for new hospital construction.

Cuccinelli's certification of the regulations, approved by the state Board of Health Sept. 14, advances them to Gov. Bob McDonnell for further review. If McDonnell approves the regulations, they will be subject to a 60-day public comment period before returning to the Board of Health for final consideration, which is expected next year.

The Board of Health voted 13-2 on Sept. 14 to adopt regulations that require existing abortion clinics in Virginia to be regulated like new hospitals.

The regulations were approved over the angry objections of abortion-rights advocates, who said the new rules were a thinly veiled attempt to curtail access to abortion services by imposing construction costs on clinics that would force many to close.

"Attorney General Cuccinelli continues to use his position of power and put political ideology before the health of thousands of Virginia women," said Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

"Today, tens of thousands of Virginia women are one step closer to losing access to critical medical care and their constitutional right to safe, legal abortion care."

The September vote was a reversal of a vote taken in June by the board, in which members voted 7-4 to exempt Virginia's 20 existing clinics from the new construction requirements.

Anti-abortion advocates on Monday hailed Cuccinelli's action as a victory for women's health and a "desperate attempt" to distract attention from deficiencies found at clinics.

"Fortunately, the basic safety standards adopted by the Board of Health will ultimately be put in place and Virginia's women will be safer because of them," said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia and the wife of Deputy Health Commissioner Matt Cobb, a McDonnell appointee.

"We look forward to encouraging pro-life Virginians who care about women's health to participate in the public comment period at the appropriate time."

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