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  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed off on new regulations Thursday that will make it more difficult for clinics providing abortions to operate and potentially close down most of the state’s 22 facilities.

    The Virginia Board of Health passed the sweeping changes in September on a 12-1 vote after a long debate that drew advocates on both side of the abortion issue, but they needed McDonnell’s approval before they went into affect on Jan 1.

    McDonnell has supported the tighter rules all along, so his decision to approve them isn’t surprising. A spokeswoman for his office said, “these common-sense regulations will help ensure that this procedure takes place in facilities that are modern, safe and well-regulated, in order to help ensure the safety and well-being of all patients.”

    In part, the regulations will require clinic owners to renovate their buildings to comply with the stricter standards now applied to hospital surgery centers. That includes larger operating rooms and bigger parking lots.

    Women’s health advocates said the changes are an attempt to close down the clinics because most don’t meet the requirements and can’t afford to make those costly changes. They said most other outpatient clinics aren't asked to meet those standards.

    “The sad fact is that the new regulations have no proven medical benefit to patients and, instead, will only serve to further limit patient access to abortion care as well as life-saving cancer screenings, birth control, and the wide range of preventive care provided at women's reproductive health centers,” the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health said in September.