No matter how many common sense pro-life bills Ken Cuccinelli introduced in the Virginia State Senate, he found absolutely no compromise from his Democratic colleagues. Year after year, liberal legislators routinely rejected bills that would have ensured necessary regulations in the state’s abortion clinics. Now, they are left with what they call an ‘extreme’ law named TRAP, the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. I spoke to former Attorney General and 2013 Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) about his experience in the Virginia State Senate, where he says Democrats have no right to cry foul over the current law, when they themselves never offered any middle ground.
Cuccinelli, who is now the president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, introduced a pro-life law just about every year from 2002 to 2010. Before 2008, he was actually the only state senator to bring forward such legislation. His motive, he explains, was the safety of the vulnerable patients walking into these clinics:
“I really have deep concerns about the women involved and I’m not a big fan of regulation, but when you learn what’s really going on in so many of these clinics, I mean it’s vile. It’s not just that they’re taking a child’s life, it’s how they go about it and how they conduct their business, is so utterly destructive and disrespectful of women coming in there.”
Each time he presented one of these bills, however, it was swiftly rejected by his liberal colleagues. His 2004 bill, for instance, SB 146, asked that abortion clinics be regulated the same as hospitals. It is the same result as the bill that ultimately passed by the General Assembly in 2011, yet found little support in 2004.
In 2005, he drafted a bill that even anti-abortion advocates should have been embarrassed to vote against. It included basic hygienic practices at clinics such as having clean towels and ensuring they have backup power in the emergency that power goes out during an abortion procedure. That bill was called SB 839 and only a fraction of hospital regulations would’ve been applied to abortion clinics, according to Cuccinelli.
Here are a few of the legislation’s specifics:
– Adequate provisions shall be maintained for the processing, sterilizing, storing, and dispensing of clean and sterile supplies and equipment.
– Written procedures shall be established for the appropriate disposal of pathological and other potentially infectious waste and contaminated supplies.
“Don’t both of these requirements sound like they should already exist?” Cuccinelli asks. “This is a burden?”
Still, the Democrats wouldn’t budge.
His recollection of the vote should be even more infuriating to pro-lifers.
“When I finished my presentation on the bill, I affirmatively told the committee that if they thought any particular provision was too onerous, they could delete it and I wouldn’t object. That caused a look of panic to come over a couple of the Dems’ faces. Then, State Senator Steve Newman called the Planned Parenthood rep back to the lectern. As the Planned Parenthood witness was walking up, Sen. Newman asked: “Can you tell me which of these provisions are too burdensome to operate an abortion clinic?” Immediately, two Democrat Senators – Janet Howell and Louise Lucas – jumped forward to their microphones and they both shouted at once ‘Don’t answer that question!’ I have never seen such a thing, ever. And despite being pressed, the Planned Parenthood witness slavishly never answered the question. So much for the search for truth and good information with which to make decisions, much less compromise!”
Cuccinelli’s colleague Delegate Bob Marshall introduced a few pro-life bills himself, which were met with similar resistance. In 2006, he brought forward HB 189. Instead of regulating clinics like a hospital, this bill would oversee abortion clinics at the same level as outpatient ambulatory care centers.
Like Cuccinelli’s efforts, Marshall’s bill was a no-go with Democrats. In 2007, he introduced HB 1883, which also required needed regulation and licensure for clinics. It had the same fate.
There were many more bills where these came from. Democrats could have accepted any of these pieces of moderate legislation, but refused. As a result, they got TRAP.
Now, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is decrying the current law as ‘burdensome,’ but he and other Democrats are getting no sympathy from Cuccinelli, who went to great lengths to try and compromise with them.
“Terry McAuliffe is talking about how this is ‘too onerous.’ But the pro-life side, it was our side that offered the compromises that they rejected. So for them to now scream and moan how onerous this is, pro-lifers offered them repeated opportunities to do something that they would consider to be less onerous that you and I would probably call less comprehensive. But, they had an all or nothing, never give an inch mentality and so what did they expect to happen? I was one of those that offered compromises and the Dems rejected them all.”
Unsurprisingly, the pro-abortion lobby in Virginia is trying to unravel the hard fought effort of Cuccinelli and other pro-life legislators who helped bring TRAP to Virginia. Yet, Cuccinelli says this attempt is not likely to get far.
Cuccinelli notes that the necessity of TRAP could be an opportune message for the 2017 gubernatorial election. Indeed, if Virginia voters read the stomach-turning reports about the abortion clinics operating in their state, they’d know who was waging the real “war on women” and agree that they can’t be left unchecked.