WASHINGTON, D.C., March 29, 2011 ( – Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that requires abortion clinics to follow the same standards for patient safety as hospitals.

The Virginia General Assembly passed the legislation in February after the full Democrat-controlled Senate was forced to vote on the measure. A 20-20 split in the chamber (with two conservative Democrats joining the 18 Republican senators) was resolved when Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the decisive tie-breaking vote.

The state Board of Health has 280 days to craft new regulations for clinics. The board is scheduled in September to weigh and decide on emergency regulations to be implemented by January 1.

Abortion advocates have complained that as many as 17 out of 21 Virginia clinics could close over the cost of complying with new requirements on hallway and doorway width, staffing, and equipment rules.

Many of these rules are standard safety procedures; the regulations related to hallway and doorway size are designed to help emergency rescuers maneuver in and out of a building in the event of a medical emergency.

“The Virginia Society for Human Life is very pleased that the governor has signed the regulations,” said Gans, who called the regulations “much needed protections for women against the unscrupulous and unregulated abortion practitioners in the state of Virginia.”

She added, however: “What we must remember is that while the clinic regulations can in fact be beneficial towards women’s lives, the reality is that every abortion still stops the beating heart of an unborn child, and we need to continue to work toward greater protective legislation that will directly and completely procure the safety of unborn children.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene denounced the new regulations, saying that it is a “distressing day for the women of Virginia.” She called the regulations “a legally questionable and ethically indefensible political gimmick.”