Your LAST chance to speak out against dangerous TRAP restrictions!

By Sarah Hogg, Advocacy & Communications Intern. Contact her @SarahLovely or e-mail her here.

We have one last chance to speak up for women’s health centers in Virginia. Have you taken action yet? 

Last year, the Virginia Board of Health finalized burdensome and medically-unnecessary restrictions (also known as TRAP regulations) designed to close Virginia women’s health centers that provide cancer screenings, family planning, and safe, legal abortion. Thankfully, after Gov. McAuliffe initiated a review last month, the Virginia Department of Health is now reviewing these dangerous regulations to decide whether they should be repealed, amended, or upheld.

Today is the LAST day of the public comment period on TRAP restrictions – which means this our last chance to speak out against the regulations before the Department of Health completes their review.  Make public comment now! 

Pro-choice Virginians from across the Commonwealth have already stepped up in a big way to help us keep our health centers open. On Tuesday we – along with our allies from ProgressVA, ACLU of Virginia, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia – delivered 4,844 pro-choice, anti-TRAP comments to the Virginia Department of Health!

Our box of 4,844 comments to the Virginia Department of Health

This is a huge step — but we have even more work to do before midnight tonight. Please submit your comment now & help us reach our goal of 5,000 comments against TRAP restrictions! 

You and I know just how much is at stake here.  If TRAP regulations are not repealed or amended , the repercussions for women, families, and healthcare across the state will be swift and severe. Under these archaic laws, three women’s health clinics across the Commonwealth have already had to close their doors or stop providing abortion services. If more women’s health centers are forced to close, Virginia women and families will become even more isolated from the critical healthcare they need and deserve.

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NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, ProgressVA, ACLU of Virginia, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia deliver comments to the Board of Health!

At midnight tonight, the Virginia Board of Health will stop accepting comments and will begin its review, to be completed by October 1st by Health Commissioner Marissa Levine. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of history.

Speak out against TRAP restrictions now! 

Supreme Court Delivers Huge Blow to Women’s Health & Rights

By Sarah Hogg, Advocacy & Communications intern. Contact her @SarahLovely or e-mail her here.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In less than one week, the Supreme Court has succeeded in alienating millions of women across Virginia & the United States.  Over the past week, the  highest court in America handed down two extreme anti-choice decisions that violate women’s authority over their decisions and treat women’s bodies as a nothing more than a battleground to be legislated upon. On Thursday, the court voted unanimously to strike down the Massachusetts buffer zone law, which protected women against threatening protesters outside of abortion clinics. The court said that this law violated pro-life Americans’ free speech to “counsel”  women on sidewalks about abortion. As if that ruling wasn’t enough, on Monday the court decided in a 5-4 vote to side with Hobby Lobby in what was arguably one of the most closely-watched Supreme Court cases of the term. The ruling allows for-profit “closely-held” corporations to interfere with their women employees’ access to birth control, giving more rights to corporations than to women.

Anti-choice protesters gather outside of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC

Anti-choice protesters gather outside of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC

Both the buffer zone ruling and the Hobby Lobby ruling are heinous infringements upon women’s rights. Having worked at a Planned Parenthood myself, I have firsthand experience of just how damaging anti-choice protesters can be. On any given day, there were at least 5-10 protesters outside of our clinic—and let me tell you, they were not peacefully “counseling” the women that came inside. Luckily, my clinic had a private property line that protesters could not cross, but many clinics across the United States are not so lucky. Despite the private property line, the protesters still had a massive impact on the patients. They stood on the sidewalk outside of the clinic and held massive, disgusting signs of what they claimed were aborted fetuses. They rushed at women turning into the clinic and thrust information through car windows. They shouted at women walking to the parking lot into the clinic about how they were murdering children and how they would always regret this decision. Women would walk into the lobby of our clinic agitated, angry, scared, and intimidated, terrorized by the protesters who were only trying to “peacefully counsel” them. The Supreme Court’s ruling against buffer zones endangers women, plain and simple. If the Supreme Court is allowed to maintain a 200-foot buffer zone, why can’t women be afforded a fraction of that same right?

The buffer zone law was one blow; one that the pro-choice community hoped would be the only anti-choice decision of this term. Then, the Hobby Lobby ruling delivered another huge blow for women’s bodily autonomy. At it’s most fundamental, the Hobby Lobby opinion is nothing short of legalized sexism. Although the Court concludes that private, for-profit corporations can refuse to provide contraception to it’s employees,  it clearly states that the opinion should not apply  to blood transfusions or vaccines — all things other religious corporations may find issue with. How is it that something 99% of women will use in their lifetimes is fair ground for restriction…but everything else is not?

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia rallies outside of the Supreme Court as the Hobby Lobby decision is announced

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia rallies outside of the Supreme Court as the Hobby Lobby decision is announced

Furthermore, while Hobby Lobby denies birth control coverage to its women employees, it still covers several forms of reproductive health care for men, including Viagra and vasectomies.  The fact that all of the women on the Supreme Court dissented in this decision is only further proof of discrimination—women now have limited access to birth control if their bosses object to it because five male justices on the Supreme Court voted in Hobby Lobby’s favor. Once again, men are the ones making the decisions about women’s bodies.

It is absolutely deplorable that we are living in the 21st century and still dealing with not only restricted access to abortions, but now also restricted access to birth control. It is unconscionable that women cannot be afforded protection from highly damaging verbal attacks outside of abortion clinics. The Supreme Court has sunk to a new low, and the women on the court know it, especially Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who penned the quote at the beginning of this article in her scathing 35-page dissent to the Hobby Lobby ruling. This week marks the beginning of what may be a slippery slope for the rights of targeted and oppressed groups across America. If the Supreme Court can legalize sexism, what else can they do? What is next? The answer to that question is certainly terrifying, but as pro-choice, feminist activists we must continue to push forward. While we may have lost two battles this week, the war is far from over.

Sign up to volunteer with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia & help us continue the fight for reproductive health and rights in the Commonwealth.

 

Introducing Alyssa!

By Alyssa Seidorf, 2014 Advocacy & Communications Intern

Hello Virginia! My name is Alyssa Seidorf, and I am so thrilled to be working as a summer 2014 Advocacy & Communication Intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. I am a recent graduate of Virginia Tech where I spent my college years completely immersed in feminist activism. Working for gender equality and reproductive justice are passions of mine that I know I will dedicate the rest of my life to supporting.

Alyssa Seidorf, a new 2014 Advocacy & Communications Intern!

Alyssa Seidorf, a new 2014 Advocacy & Communications Intern!

My brand of feminism is about compassion, listening to others lived experiences, and working to make the world a more just place so that everyone might one day be respected, valued, and heard. As Hillary Clinton famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights”, and I am so excited to join forces with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia as they support legislators who understand and respect this while also working to block policies that undermine women’s safety and bodily autonomy. Virginians deserve better than TRAP regulations, ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’, and politicians who are out of touch with Virginian women and their families!

I am so excited to embark on this new adventure with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia to support work to ensure every Virginian has reproductive justice – access to a full range of healthcare options, comprehensive sex education, and the empowerment and means to raise (or not) a family at a time that is right for them. Advocacy to educate young people about their body and rights is one of the fundamental steps to ensuring our youth are equipped to make healthy reproductive health decisions, and I am so excited to start my first project to help get this vital information into their hands!

Virginia Senate in Turmoil: A Recap

By Sarah Hogg, Advocacy & Communications Intern. Contact her at @SarahLovely or email her here

Last week was a pretty crazy week in Virginia politics. In case you missed it, we’ve got your recap right here!

On Monday, June 9th, anti-choice Democratic Senator Phillip Puckett abruptly and unexpectedly resigned. This shocking news – announced as Richmond legislators continued their ongoing debate over Medicaid Expansion –   marked a huge  and consequential power shift in the Virginia Senate. While Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam had been serving as the tie-breaking vote in an evenly split (20 – 20) Senate, Puckett’s resignation effectively gave Virginia Republicans the majority with a 20 votes to the Democrats’ 19.  Furthermore, Puckett’s resignation initially appeared to be prompted by new jobs for himself and his daughter — leading at least one progressive organization to call for an investigation into the possibility of an ethic violation.

Democratic Sen. Phil Puckett is anti-choice, but his sudden resignation caused a troubling power shift in the Virginia Senate

Democratic Sen. Phil Puckett is anti-choice, but his resignation caused a troubling power shift in the Virginia Senate

Regardless of the motivation behind Puckett’s resignation, the news is incredibly troubling. Although Sen. Puckett is anti-choice (and has consistently scored a 0% on our legislative scorecards) loss of Democratic control in the VA Senate could have HUGE consequences for women’s rights — not to mention healthcare for over 400,000 Virginians.

The first casualty came late in the evening on June 13th.  After hours of debate, the Virginia General Assembly finally adopted a state budget. But instead of including federal money to expand Medicaid in Virginia, the budget completely rejects Medicaid Expansion – and even includes language to further block health care expansion in the Commonwealth. We at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia are extremely disappointed that the current budget (currently awaiting action from Governor McAuliffe) does not include health care for 400,000 working men, women, and their families. We will keep you updated as the budget process continues — check back for more information & breaking news!

 

 

Intersectionality on campus: Backlash against pride week at JMU

sarah hogg pic

In fall 2013, Sarah started a “Why I’m voting pro-choice campaign on the JMU campus”

By Sarah Hogg, Choice Out Loud intern at James Madison University. Connect with Sarah at @SarahLovely or email her here

I remember exactly when I made the conscious decision to make politically charged pro-choice and queer activism my life’s work. I was just barely nineteen, sitting in my college town’s Obama campaign headquarters on November 5th, 2012, waiting for election results to come in and reflecting on my work over the past three and a half months. In August of 2012, I accepted a fellowship with Organizing for America to work on President Obama’s campaign. I worked everyday canvassing, phone banking, registering voters, and advocating for political issues on my campus, James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat in tears, simultaneously full of anxiousness and hope, waiting for the race to be called. When I found out that President Obama won, I knew I could never turn away from this work. I had truly found what I was meant to do, and that was an amazing feeling.

Fast forward to now, almost a year and a half after election night, and so much and so little has changed at the same time. Since fall of 2012, I’ve interned with Planned Parenthood and staffed Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for Governor. I’m in the middle of my second year serving on the exec board of JMU’s only student-led LGBTQ+ organization, Madison Equality, and I’m in my third semester interning for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. All of my experiences have been amazing, and I feel so fortunate for the opportunities I’ve been afforded. While I love the work I do, it can also be unbelievably challenging mentally and emotionally, something I’ve especially come to find in the last week.

Sarah (right) with Alena, Advocacy Manager of NARAL Pro-Choice VA

At my school over the past week, our queer community has received a shocking amount of backlash to our annual pride week, GayMU. GayMU is a weeklong celebration of queer sexuality and gender identity, and it’s been a part of James Madison University for many years. While in previous years we saw a protest here or there, this year Madison Equality and the queer community at large at JMU have been the unfortunate recipients of a considerable amount of discrimination and hate speech. After sending out our bulk e-mail advertising GayMU, our exec board received homophobic responses from students complaining about our week of celebration. One e-mail was from an outraged student who threatened to take legal action against us immediately because his religious liberties were being infringed upon. (Of course, this is utterly ridiculous and he has no ground.) Another student’s e-mail detailed the ways in which we were throwing our choice to be queer in his face, and also claimed we were indecent and seeking attention. These e-mails were accompanied by a smattering of negative responses on social media.

On Thursday evening (April 3rd), a twitter account surfaced named “StraightJMU.” It’s bio reads: “Real JMU gentleman. We need to take our school back into our own hands!” and associates itself with a fraternity on JMU’s campus. The account quickly began to spew hate, bigotry, and extreme discrimination, and even began to target specific students—myself included. In a response to a tweet of mine proclaiming queer people’s right to be at JMU, I was told to go up north. Other students were also told hateful things. This account doesn’t have many followers, and I want to emphasize the outpouring of support that JMU’s queer community has received from students and faculty, but that doesn’t change the fact that people like this exist on our campus.

One thing is clear about the GayMU issue we’re facing at James Madison University: Queer people are not always welcome. On a campus that boasts acceptance and friendliness like no other school, this is a huge deal. We are told we should not be here, that we should not exist, that we should stay subordinate. And this is why I’m writing today. It is absolutely impossible to look at queer issues without also thinking of issues of reproductive justice, of racism, sexism, classism, ableism. I’ve been organizing in the pro-choice movement for almost a year and a half, and I see an unbelievable amount of connections between the subordination of women and women’s bodies and the homophobia and transphobia queer folks are facing on my campus today. Women have consistently been told that we are not fully human. Instead, we are seen as pawns in political games, individuals whose bodies are not truly their own in doctor’s offices and abortion clinics, unworthy of equal rights, protection, and respect. Queer folks experience the same thing. We are repeatedly told that we are in some way unnatural or abnormal, that expressing ourselves and loving others freely are high crimes, that we don’t belong in society and should instead hide ourselves and step back into the closets that confined and damaged so many of us for so long. People of color, disabled folks, and individuals of low socioeconomic status (among many other oppressed and minority groups) experience similar discrimination that is equally as threatening and dangerous.

JMU i stand

As an out queer woman, I know how important intersectionality is when engaging in activism. I cannot fight for queer rights or women’s rights without also fighting for the rights of other historically oppressed minorities. Our oppressions intersect within ourselves, within our communities, and within our culture. Being an activist means constantly fighting dominant, subjugating systems and forces within our culture—patriarchy, heteronormativity and heterosexism, the gender binary, white-centric ideas of what it means to be American, institutions that refuse to make themselves accessible for people with disabilities, the list goes on.

When I made the conscious decision to make activism my life’s work, I had no idea there were so many entanglements and red tape surrounding what I love. I hardly knew what intersectionality meant, and I hadn’t come out yet. I will continue to fight, and I urge you to join me. Please support my queer community at James Madison University this week, keeping in mind the intersectional oppressions that keep so many of us in places where we feel immobile and unable to take action. But, with this, we CAN take action. You CAN help. To stand in solidarity with queer students at JMU, please share the above graphic & use the hashtag #SupportJMUpride. Thank you for standing with us!

 

Pro-choice on campus: George Mason University

By Elvira Razzano, Choice Out Loud intern at George Mason University 

After our pro-choice student organization was forced to disband in the Spring of 2013 due to a low member turnout at meetings, I was motivated to build a coalition of pro-choice students at George Mason University. I was excited to join NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia as their Choice Out Loud intern on campus, and I immediately  started  reaching out to my pro-choice friends, who donated their time to advertising my events and helped me table to recruit more pro-choice students.

Elvira Razzano on the George Mason University campus!

From the start, our biggest obstacle was the fact that our campus climate definitely leaned anti-choice; there is a registered pro-life student organization that frequently holds events on campus, most visibly by holding graphic images in the center of campus every so often. However, I knew that with enough momentum we could show George Mason University that their movement did not represent the student body as a whole.

On a rainy Friday afternoon in February, I organized a few students to counter-protest these anti-choice,  graphic images on campus. We got plenty of thumbs up and thank-yous from passersby, showing us that the student body recognized and appreciated our pro-choice efforts. It was that day that I learned that the Genocide Awareness Project, an anti-choice organization that travels to college campuses with huge graphic images that compare abortion to genocide, was coming to campus.  I knew I had to do something, so I spent most of March planning a massive counter-protest against them.

GMU Protest

Elvira organized dozens of GMU students to protest an offensive anti-choice display on campus

I’m happy to report that pro-choice students were a constant presence against the Genocide Awareness Project when they were on campus March 24th, 25th, and 26th! We held assertive signs with slogans that said “Pro Choice is not Pro Abortion,” “My Constitutional Rights Are Not Up For Debate,” and “Not Your Uterus? Not Your Decision.” We engaged in peaceful conversation with members of the Genocide Awareness Project and received overwhelming support and affirmation from the Mason community; some students were compelled to drop their things, grab a sign, and counter-protest with us.

Although the counter-protest against the Genocide Awareness Project was a huge success, it is imperative that the Mason community knows that reproductive rights are still under attack even though the Genocide Awareness Project is no longer on our campus. I am excited to spend the rest of my Choice Out Loud internship letting the Mason community know just that!

A TRAP Tantrum in Manassas

By: Michelle Kinsey Bruns, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation Board Member

Click for Facebook event and RSVP!In the last year, Virginia’s number of abortion clinics has dropped from 20 to 18, due to new regulations designed to be too tough to meet. In Manassas, one City Council member has spent the last six years leading a big-government crusade for these burdensome clinic regulations. Winning the restrictions he wanted at the state level last year hasn’t slowed Marc Aveni’s zeal for still more restrictions at the local level.

Next Monday, March 10, the Council will hold a re-vote that Aveni has forced on a question he lost by a 5-1 vote over a month ago: should Manassas single out clinics for fast-tracked zoning reclassification and special regulations requiring public hearings and a city council vote as a condition of operation?

Having failed to get his way, Aveni packed the last city council meeting with 100 clinic protesters to insist that the council re-do the vote, simply because he didn’t like its original outcome. We pro-choice people of conscience, from Manassas or elsewhere, need to be seen and heard in that council room on Monday night (RSVP on Facebook!), because the outrageous unfairness of a stunt-mob reversal of a finished vote doesn’t mean it can’t happen. There must be taxpayers who would like this council to accomplish something other than regulating pregnant people’s bodies, but those aren’t the people Aveni packed the chamber with last week.

Let’s back up. Aveni was first elected to Manassas City Council in 2006. Within the year, he proposed a resolution suggesting that the city amend its code to regulate its one abortion clinic, despite its lack of standing or technical expertise to do so. After the council was informed that medical regulation is a state function, Manassas’ fringey anti-choice Delegate Robert Marshall then suggested Board of Health regulation to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office as a way around State Senate rebuffs of repeated House of Delegates attempts to restrict abortion access. In 2010, Cooch responded with, essentially, “that’s a fabulous idea!” And then there, again, was Marc Aveni, with a resolution of the City of Manassas’ support for greater state abortion regulations, over the objections of fellow City Council Republican Mark Wolfe. Wolfe called city involvement in the matter “inappropriate,” but his no vote was the only one.

Three years later, in June 2013, Cooch had reconfigured and threatened the state Board of Health into giving him the draconian regulations he wanted; the new rules went into effect; and the first clinic to fall to the new regulations closed its doors.

Game over, right? Anti-choice got its Virginia TRAP law. But they’re weren’t done. They’re never done.

A month later, the lone clinic in the city of Fairfax attempted to relocate to a new space more suited to the new state regulations. The Fairfax City Council not only denied the Fairfax clinic a permit because of concerns about the amount of parking at the site (…really). They also created, on a day’s notice, a new Special Use Permit designation for medical facilities, with broad exemptions that seemed to apply to everything except abortion clinics. The permit would cost $4800 and require public hearings and a City Council vote as a condition of operation.

Instead of relocating, the Fairfax clinic closed.

Fifteen miles away in Manassas, anti-choice crusaders took note.

On October 28, two longtime Manassas clinic protesters stood to speak against women’s access to reproductive healthcare during the public comment period at a City Council meeting. They’d done so dozens of times before, but this time, they went farther. They asked the Council to consider copying Fairfax’s new municipal clinic regulations. Zoning reclassification, special use permit, public hearings, council approval. In short: arbitrary, big-government, partisan and ideological roadblocks, not to just abortion but also a broad range of other safe, legal, and necessary reproductive health and related care.

Immediately, Councilman Aveni offered a motion to do what the protesters had suggested. The vote was unanimous. And most of the council meetings of 2014 so far have had from a few minutes to several hours devoted to this issue—which, remember, should have been rendered moot last year when Aveni got the onerous clinic regulations he wanted from the state.

It’s worth noting that the two clinic protesters and Aveni are all members of All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. For bonus points, so is Delegate “Sideshow Bob” Marshall. The protesters have both been “leadership team” members of the Manassas outpost of the national 40 Days For Life clinic harassment project. Manassas 40DFL, in turn, has close ties to the “AAA Women for Choice” (…really) anti-choice crisis pregnancy center beside the Manassas abortion clinic, which is a personal favorite of Ken Cuccinelli’s, and where staff told a NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation undercover investigator in 2012 that contraceptive pills would give her breast cancer (spoiler alert: no). One of AAA’s “counselors” is something of a city council regular, as well. I got a taste of how far outside the mainstream this crew is at a January Land Use Committee meeting: as the committee met in closed session, the pair from 40DFL and the AAA “counselor” spent a full thirty minutes explaining to me in the hallway that my marriage is invalid because I don’t plan to have children, and having babies is my “fulfillment as a woman” (…really).

These extreme anti-women activists are not everyday citizens concerned with women’s health. In fact, they seem pretty tight with Aveni, based on a huddle I saw them all in during a break at one council meeting. With this cast of recurring characters, the nonstop legislative harassment of the city’s present and future abortion providers looks a lot like an extracurricular church project. That’s great idea for a parish potluck, but a really terrible idea for legislative policy or for public health misinformation.

The debate appears headed for a political and fiscal quagmire, despite signs that much of the Manassas council would prefer to move past Aveni’s abortion fixation, and get on with the work of the city. At the January 23 land use meeting, the committee voted to recommend not a singling-out of abortion providers, but a long-needed comprehensive zoning overhaul. And at the February 3 full council meeting, the vote was 5-1 to accept community development staff’s recommendation for the comprehensive overhaul. Council members Way and Randolph wanted staff’s assurance that the part of the comprehensive overhaul that would answer the medical use definition question around clinics could be finished by the end of the calendar year, but they got what they needed, leaving Aveni standing alone.

Aveni, though, was visibly unhappy to lose the vote. And it seems that’s when he went into another activist huddle. A call went out among 40 Days For Life protesters to pack the public comment period of the next meeting, to insist that clinics get stricter regulations right now. A hundred anti-choice clinic protesters lined up on February 24 to speak for hours, in a sneak attack of half-truths and muddled comprehension of the issue at hand. Then Aveni attempted to call a vote on their demands: a unilateral do-over of the February 3 vote! Council member Randolph moved instead ­that the council have two weeks to mull it over. That brings us to next Monday’s council meeting—where it is crucial that pro-small-government, pro-fiscal-conservatism, pro-women, and pro-choice Virginians show up to tell them not to be intimidated by Aveni’s gang of latecomers.

Vice Mayor Harrover writes on his personal blog, “I’ve no love of abortion but this process was already in place.  It’s what the Council voted on last time around. … This [February 24] motion would appear to pre-judge the outcome of staff and legal work.  That’s got potential to cause some remarkable legal headaches.” And: “Amazing we can find money in the budget for this but not parks & rec, redevelopment or economic development.  We’re the only locality in NoVa that has none of these things.  Yay Us!” Plus, as political blogger Ben Tribbett points out, there’s very real potential for Fairfax’s hasty zoning changes targeting clinics to take that city’s whole political process hostage. This is what Aveni wants for Manassas. That, and to have the personal power to overrule the autonomous decision-making of pregnant people with the same kind of arrogant bully tantrum that he pulled in insisting that City Council re-do a vote until the results suit him.

One in three American women will have an abortion in her life: that’s 1.4 million women in Virginia alone. With just 18 clinics left in the state, many of those women have gone to, or will go to, the Manassas clinic for their abortion care.

There is no guarantee that the comprehensive zoning overhaul that we want will avoid a bad outcome for the Manassas clinic or any future Manassas clinic. But we know Aveni’s rush-job, piecemeal attack will be bad. A Special Use Permit puts any clinic one city council vote away from a shutdown. And if Aveni can airlift a crowd into a council meeting to demand a revote on a zoning proposal, what’s to stop him from doing the same with a clinic closing proposal­­?

Aveni doesn’t get to keep on making up the process as he goes along. Join me on Monday night in Manassas to say that six years of legislative harassment is enough.

Keep an anti-choice agenda out of Virginia’s budget & restore reproductive health care programs

You may have heard that the latest outrageous, disrespectful remark about women’s reproductive rights to stir up national ridicule and backlash came from Virginia’s own state Senator Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield). In a Facebook post dismissing a Valentine’s Day card he received from our Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition, in which we urged him to support access to the full range of reproductive health care services for Virginians, Sen. Martin referred to pregnant women as “hosts” for a child and otherwise showed just how little he gets what’s at stake. His post as a whole was another insight into how little respect and understanding anti-choice lawmakers like Senator Martin have for women’s reproductive lives and deeply personal decisions.

But current anti-choice attacks in Virginia’s General Assembly go beyond what politicians are saying — they’re also trying to push their agenda into law through the budget.

The version of Virginia’s two-year budget approved by the House of Delegates last week includes several amendments that push an anti-choice agenda and go after reproductive health care access, particularly for low-income Virginians. If passed, the House-approved budget amendments would:

  • Defund Planned Parenthood, blocking thousands of Virginians from receiving affordable preventative reproductive health care services like birth control and cancer screenings at their chosen provider (4-5.04 #3h)
  • Taking away coverage for abortion care for low-income, Medicaid-eligible pregnant women who are diagnosed with severe fetal anomalies, thereby taking away options from vulnerable families at a difficult time (4-5.04 #6h)
  • The budget even includes a laughable amendment from Delegate Bob Marshall to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from using executive action to repeal TRAP regulations – something the law doesn’t allow him to do anyway! (4-5.04 #4h)

Meanwhile, the House’s approved budget did not include several budget amendments passed by the Senate that would restore funding for programs that actually promote reproductive health care access for all Virginians, like:

  • Plan First, which provides family planning services for low-income people (301 #38s)
  • FAMIS MOMS, which is health coverage for low income pregnant women to ensure they can access prenatal and maternity care (301 #17s)
  • Marketplace Virginia, a common-sense compromise to close the Medicaid coverage gap and ensure that up to 250,000 Virginians have comprehensive, affordable health care (more info)
The budget now moves to a joint conference committee of House and Senate members who will decide what appears in the final budget. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our coalition partners are  urging the conference committee to remove the House amendments that would restrict reproductive health care access, and instead restore funding to critical reproductive health safety-net programs and work to extend health care coverage to more Virignians.

Despite heroic efforts from pro-choice Delegates, dangerous budget amendments advance in House

Yesterday, the Virginia House of Delegate voted to approve three separate budget amendments attacking women’s health. 

Despite passionate speeches against these extreme measures from our pro-choice champions, a majority of Delegates voted to include amendments in the final house budget to defund Planned Parenthood and strip funding for low-income women who seek abortion when the fetus has been diagnosed with an incapacitating anomaly. The House even voted to approve a laughable amendment from Delegate Bob Marshall to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from using executive action to repeal TRAP regulations – something the law doesn’t allow him to do anyway!

Rational or not, it’s obvious that these anti-choice Delegates will stop at nothing to attack women’s health and rights. But even as we’re gearing up for the next fight, it’s important to honor some of our amazing pro-choice legislators who fought so hard against these dangerous measures. Click on the names below to thank our pro-choice champions on their facebook pages! 

First to fight back on the floor yesterday was Delegate Charniele Herring, who spoke against the budget amendment to defund Planned Parenthood in Virginia. As she explained, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Virginia provide thousands of women with critical medical care, including cancer screenings, birth control, and safe, legal abortion. “Attacking access to healthcare for women is unconscionable,” Del. Herring said after the vote.  “In the Republican quest to defund Planned Parenthood, they are trying to eliminate programs like cancer screenings by attacking this health care provider. Federal Courts have agreed that defunding qualified health care providers from providing services under Medicaid because they separately provide abortion services violates federal law.”

Next up was Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, who stood to oppose a laughable amendment from Delegate Bob Marshall to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from using executive action to repeal burdensome clinic regulations (TRAP). Although Governor McAuliffe has no power to repeal TRAP with executive action anyway (so this amendment is essentially nonsense), Delegate Filler-Corn took the opportunity to speak about the importance of women’s health clinics in the state – many of whom are severely threatened by dangerous TRAP regulations. “This amendment is yet another targeted attack on women’s healthcare,” she stated. “Because of the onerous and medically unnecessary TRAP restrictions approved by our body in 2011, thousands of women in the Commonwealth have seen their only option for high-quality, low-cost access to life-saving screenings and health care advice in their community close.”

Last but not least, Delegate Jennifer McClellan took to the floor yesterday to share the heart-wrenching story of a Virginia woman whose pregnancy went tragically wrong when the fetus was diagnosed with incapacitating health complications. When this woman and her husband made the difficult, personal decision to seek abortion, they were lucky enough to be able to afford it.  But as Delegate McClellan pointed out,  budget amendment 4-5.04 #6h would strip funding for abortion for low-income women facing similar tragic situations – and  leave poor women with virtually zero options. “What this amendment does is say that if you are in this tragic situation and you have private insurance, or you have money, you can do what needs to be done,” she said.  “If you are poor – if you are poor – you’re on your own. Ladies and gentleman this is one of the cruelest budget amendments I have ever seen.” 

After the vote yesterday,  pro-choice champion Senator Donald McEachin added this: “I am incredibly disappointed and dismayed that House Republicans voted to defund cancer screenings and preventative care for women across the Commonwealth. You can be sure that the fight to protect women’s health and health care for all Virginians is not over.”

We agree — this fight is far from over. We will be in touch soon with ways to take action against these dangerous amendments, but in the meantime please contact these pro-choice legislators & thank them for their tireless work! To stay updated on these budget amendments as they advance,  sign up for email alerts,  like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter! You can even receive breaking news to your cell phone by texting VACHOICE to 30644!

Critical reproductive rights bills will be heard WEDNESDAY in VA House!

This is a HUGE week for reproductive health in Virginia – and we need your help now!

Wednesday afternoon all of our pro-choice bills in the House, including proposals to repeal mandatory ultrasound legislation and protect birth control in Virginia code, will be heard in the Courts and Justice subcommittee on Constitutional Law. In addition, the subcommittee will consider HB 98, Del. Bob Marshall’s dangerous anti-choice attempt to threaten abortion providers with criminal penalties.

Please contact members of the subcommittee right now and tell them to stand for women’s health! 

Members of the Courts & Justice Subcommittee on Constitutional Law:

Support HB 1056, HB546 and HB 547 to repeal Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law:

  • Health care decisions should be between a woman, her family, and her doctor, NOT politicians.
  • Requiring an ultrasound before abortion is about political interference, not informed consent. Information should not be provided with the intent or result of shaming, judging, or making a woman change her mind.
  • We may not all feel the same way about abortion, but we can agree that these are personal, private decisions between a woman, her family, her faith, and her doctor. Women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments, and politicians should not interfere in this private medical decision.

Oppose HB 98, an abortion ban that imposes criminal penalties on physicians for knowing a woman’s intentions to terminate a pregnancy on the basis of sex: 

  • This bill undermines the doctor-patient relationship, does nothing to address sex discrimination and gender-based violence, and undermines a woman’s private medical decision making.
  • This bill purports to be about gender equality, but in fact it is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict a woman’s access to abortion care. This bill requires doctors and health care providers to specifically monitor the reasons women get abortions. Even if we disagree about abortion, we should all be able to agree that a woman’s personal and lawful health care decisions should not be singled out to be degraded, insulted, and exploited as a political tool.
  • By regulating a pregnant woman’s motives for seeking an abortion and exposing the doctor to litigation, this legislation places physicians in an untenable position, threatening to undermine the doctor-patient relationship.

Thank you for taking action!