Virginia health board lifts contested rules on abortion clinics

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[October 25, 2016]  (Reuters) - Virginia's Board of Health voted on Monday to remove contested regulations on abortion clinics that included meeting hospital-like building standards, a spokeswoman said.

The 11-4 vote lifted restrictions imposed under a 2011 law that the board found were an undue burden on abortion providers, the spokeswoman said.

Among other guidelines, the regulations called for facilities that perform five or more abortions a month to undertake costly renovations to meet hospital-style building codes instead of their current design as outpatient clinics. Backers had argued that the standards kept women safe, but opponents claimed they limited abortion access for women.

The board's vote followed a Supreme Court decision in June that struck down a Texas law imposing similar restrictions on facilities that carry out abortions.

Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe hailed the decision. "This afternoon’s vote signals a victory and the end of a protracted regulatory fight over the future of women’s health in Virginia," he said in a statement.

The Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Governor Robert McDonnell approved a law in 2011 that ordered the board to regulate the clinics. McAuliffe asked the Board of Health in 2014 to review and remove the rules.

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(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)

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