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Board votes today

New poll shows Virginians strongly support stricter regulation of abortion clinics

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Board votes today

Virginians strongly support tougher regulation of outpatient abortion clinics, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday. The news comes as the State Board of Health votes today on whether to adopt new regulations that hold Virginia abortion clinics to the same standards as hospitals instead of doctors' offices, as policies now require.

Abortion rights advocates say the proposed clinic regulations, which arose from a law the General Assembly enacted and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell enthusiastically signed last winter, amount to an end run around the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

But the 1,368 registered Virginia voters Quinnipiac interviewed from Sept. 6-12 didn't see it that way. Fifty-five percent of them said they support holding the clinics to tougher health standards and 22 percent opposed, 20 percent did not know and 3 percent refused to answer. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Support was strong even though 50 percent in the survey said abortion should be legal compared with 41 percent who said it should be outlawed. But 50 percent also told Quinnipiac the proposed regulations are necessary to protect the health of women who have abortions.

Most of the state's 21 clinics claim they will have to close because of costs for retrofitting facilities to meet new structural mandates such as operating room sizes. "Opponents apparently have been unable to convince the electorate that this is an unwarranted backdoor way to stop abortions," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

That may be a reasonable response from the electorate given, as pro-life advocates in the state have repeatedly pointed out, that abortion is a billion-dollar-a-year business. Chris Freund, Vice President of the Family Foundation of Virginia, told WORLD Virginia last month that the new regulations are reasonable and necessary. "No one really knows what's going on in those places," he said. "This is the one way health officials can keep track of what's happening."

The more stringent regulations found support across every political, demographic and geographic grouping. Even among respondents who identified themselves as Democrats, a plurality 47 percent approved while 34 percent disapproved.

However, only one-fourth of those surveyed had read or heard of the new regulations. Pollsters included a lengthy explanation as part of a 91-word question. Among respondents who already knew about the issue, 51 percent supported the change and 41 percent did not.

At a final hearing in a Henrico County hotel this morning, supporters and opponents of stricter regulations spent 90 minutes arguing their cases before the Board, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. About two-thirds of 32 speakers opposed the regulations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Les Sillars

Les is a WORLD Radio correspondent and commentator. He previously spent two decades as WORLD Magazine’s Mailbag editor. Les directs the journalism program at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va.

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