Rally to Support Falls Church Healthcare Center Against TRAP

We had a great time today at the rally in Arlington to support the Falls Church Healthcare Center (FCHC) in the first stages of its lawsuit protesting targeted regulations against abortion providers pushed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Here’s the link to our Storify story compiling pictures, videos, and social media about the rally. Join us next time and check out our events page for more opportunities to support choice!

Young activists at the rally!

Young activists at the rally!

 

Last chance to stand up against McDonnell’s abortion coverage ban before April 3 vote

StopAbortionBanSmallNow is the time to tell the General Assembly: coverage for abortion is a basic part of comprehensive reproductive health care, and Governor McDonnell shouldn’t get to block even more Virginians from access to this coverage to suit his anti-choice agenda.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene to vote on all of Governor Bob McDonnell’s vetos and amendments for this session — including his amendments to prohibit any plan being sold in the new health benefits exchange from including coverage for abortion care. The vote could come down to just one or two votes in the state Senate, which means your lawmakers need to hear from you today against this insidious attack on health care and abortion access for tens of thousands of Virginians.

Send an email to your Senator through our website here or find their contact information here to call or email their office directly.

The new health benefits exchanges, created under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), are designed to be a marketplace where consumers and small businesses can compare private insurance plans and purchase one that works for them.  The aim is to give people who are uninsured or under-insured now a straightforward way to find and access affordable, comprehensive insurance plans.  That’s why it’s so egregious that the governor is undermining this goal by seeking to ban Virginians participating in the exchange from buying truly comprehensive plans that are currently available on the private market.

Coverage for abortion care is an essential part of comprehensive health insurance. Just like coverage for birth control, prenatal care, and maternity care, insurance coverage for abortion gives a woman the ability to make the reproductive decisions that are best for her health, her life, and her family. Insurance companies recognize that — it’s why the majority of private insurance plans in the U.S. market today include abortion coverage. Paying for abortion care out-of-pocket can be prohibitively expensive for many families. This is especially true of more complicated procedures, such as when a woman’s health is at risk or later in pregnancy when the fetus has been diagnosed with severe anomalies — both situations in which McDonnell’s amendment would prohibit Virginians from having coverage through their insurance!

Gov. McDonnell and his anti-choice allies are trying to downplay this amendment. They’re falsely claiming that it’s just about preserving their anti-choice status quo of prohibiting public money from paying for abortion care. In reality, this amendment would go beyond the current standard and affect even Virginians who are using their own funds to pay for the premiums on private health insurance.

The fact is that people who use government subsidies to purchase health insurance through the exchange — just like state employees and Virginians on Medicaid — will unfortunately already be prohibited from having their insurance cover abortion under the federal Affordable Care Act law.  But not all states have not extended this abortion coverage ban to people who will be purchasing health insurance with their own funds through the exchange, as Governor McDonnell wants to do. For instance, just last month Minnesota passed its health exchange legislation without such a ban.

That’s why it’s especially important that your lawmakers hear the facts about what the governor’s abortion coverage amendment would do. They need to know that their constituents like you believe all Virginians deserve the ability to purchase affordable comprehensive health insurance that includes abortion coverage.

by Caroline O’Shea, Deputy Director

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has its facts wrong. Get the truth!

By Alena Yarmosky, Advocacy and Communications Manager

This is outrageous.

On Friday morning, the Richmond Times Dispatch published an unbelievable and stunningly inaccurate editorial on Governor McDonnell’s recently introduced abortion ban amendment. The editorial recycled Governor McDonnell’s false claims of “taxpayer funded abortion” and completely misrepresented the truth of the matter, all while ignoring the broad and unprecedented impact this ban will have on the health of thousands of Virginia’s women and families. Because it is obvious that that the RTD has been reading anti-choice talking points (and missing the facts), we’re here to set the record straight.

Their take: “[NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia]  says McDonnell’s amendment would block women from purchasing comprehensive health care ‘with their own private dollars. Not so.”

Our take: Um… yes so. If Governor McDonnell’s amendment is enacted, it will prevent thousands of Virginian women from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money.  Here’s how it works:

Virginia law and the Affordable Care Act already ban state-funded coverage for abortion, except in rare & life-threatening instances.

  1. Virginia law already prohibits state- funded health insurance coverage for elective abortions except in cases of rape/incest, fetal abnormality, or when a woman’s life is in jeopardy.
  2. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, does not require any state (including Virginia) to change its current bans on abortion coverage for women who participate in the exchange.
  3. Even if Virginia didn’t already have these bans, the ACA explicitly prohibits any federal funds from being used to pay for abortion coverage in exchanges – with limited exceptions for cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. To recap, that’s two concrete bans on public funding for abortion: one in Virginia law, and one explicitly outlined under the Affordable Care Act. No public money can or will be used to fund abortions within the new exchanges – period.

Government subsidies (which some Virginians will use to pay for health care through the ACA exchange) are already restricted from paying for abortion (except in the above – rare – instances). 

  1. The ACA requires insurers to keep private dollars completely separate form all federal funds, including federal subsidies. So, imagine that a Virginia woman is receiving government subsidies to help pay for healthcare through the Virginia exchange. If she decides to purchase coverage for abortion care (currently offered in the vast majority of plans), insurers are strictly prohibited from using government subsidies to do so.
  2. What’s more, the private funding used pay for abortion coverage must be kept strictly separate from all government funding. It’s 100% clear: No government money (including government subsidies) can go towards abortion coverage.

Gov. McDonnell’s amendment would ban all insurance companies – even separate policy riders – from providing plans that cover abortion. But we already know that state-funded healthcare cannot cover abortion, and no taxpayer money can go towards abortion coverage within the ACA exchange. What then, does Gov. McDonnell’s amendment actually do? That’s right…block women from purchasing comprehensive health care with private dollars.

It’s obvious, RTD:  This amendment is not about taxpayer funding for abortion.  Current law is clear, and  sadly public funding of abortion care is already forbidden, except in very narrow circumstances. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia believes abortion is basic health care and deserves coverage—both public and private.  But let’s be clear, public funding for abortion is not the issue here!  Instead, this amendment goes far beyond existing law, and imposes unprecedented limitations on private insurance coverage in our state that will block women in our state from getting care they need.

That’s why we’re fighting back. And with all of the myths and misrepresentations flying around, it’s extra important that your Senator understands exactly what Governor McDonnell’s abortion ban does – and what it means for the women of Virginia. Contact your Senator right now and tell him/her to reject McDonnell’s anti-choice amendment!

Together, we’ll set the record straight.

Governor McDonnell moves to ban insurance coverage for abortion in Virginia (Take Action Now!)

by Caroline O’Shea, deputy directorNo Better Health Care for You, Virginia Women

If you’d hoped that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell might be slowing down on his anti-choice agenda in his final year in office — and after all the outrage we’ve seen over attacks he has pushed like the mandatory ultrasound law and targeted regulations on abortion providers — think again.

As we anticipated following reports last month, Governor McDonnell waited until the last possible minute in this year’s legislative calendar to push yet another of his attacks on reproductive rights and health care. Late last night, he introduced amendments on Virginia’s health benefits exchange implementation bills that will ban any insurance plan being sold through the new exchange from including coverage for abortion care. It’s another in a long line of anti-choice policies designed to block women from accessing affordable safe abortion care and to undermine the promise of improved comprehensive health care coverage for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act.

Contact your state Senator now and urge them to oppose Governor McDonnell’s abortion coverage ban.

If the General Assembly approves these amendments to HB1900/SB921 (see the amendment text here), Gov. McDonnell’s abortion coverage ban would block the thousands of Virginians who will be purchasing insurance plans through the exchange from choosing to buy private plans that include abortion coverage — a basic benefit currently included in the vast majority of private insurance plans in the U.S. market. It will even prohibit them from buying a separate policy rider to cover abortion! Continue reading

Stand up for contraceptive coverage in Richmond on August 1st!

August 1, 2012 will mark an important milestone as several parts of the Affordable Care Act health care reform law go into effect: when many women go to the pharmacy next month to pick up their birth control prescription, they will not be charged a co-pay. This is a big victory by making sure health insurance policies treat birth control as the basic, essential preventative care that it is and make it affordable to as many women as possible.

As you probably know, the Affordable Care Act also includes many other advances for women’s health care access, such as refusing to let insurance companies discriminate against women in pricing and making sure policies cover prenatal and maternity care!

But unfortunately, the fight is far from over when it comes to protecting these and other benefits for improved health care access in the ACA. Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has lead the charge against the Affordable Care Act, spearheading  a host of anti-ACA lawsuits in the states. Now that he’s lost that challenge, he’s hinted that he might not implement the law.

It’s just another instance of Virginia’s activist Attorney General putting his ideology before his job.  We and our colleagues at NARAL Pro-Choice America need your help to show him that enough is enough! 

Join fellow NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia activists for an event to show Attorney General Cuccinelli that his politics and agenda don’t match the values and priorities of the people of the commonwealth. We’ll be delivering petitions supporting President Obama’s contraceptive-coverage policy.

What: Birth-Control Petition Delivery and Rally
Where: Office of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, 900 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
*bring a homemade sign! 
When: Wednesday, August 1, at 12:15 p.m.
How: Contact Jen Wang at JWang [at] prochoiceamerica.org to RSVP or for more information.

Hope to see a lot of our activists there! Thanks for getting involved.

General Assembly Update #2: February 9th

This year’s General Assembly is moving pretty fast as we find ourselves approaching the day when successful House and Senate bills crossover into the other body.

We’ve had some tough losses and a few bright spots. Let’s review what’s transpired in the last couple of weeks.

HB1 – “Personhood” 

Del. Bob Marshall’s bill still sits in Del. Dave Albo’s Courts Committee. HB1 may be heard this Friday, Feb 10, so there is still time to reach out to your legislator and Del. Albo to get them to vote against this bill. Del. Albo has voted against “personhood” as recently as 2010, so we’re hoping he still stands with us against this bill. No matter where you live in Virginia, contact Delegate Albo today and ask him as committee chairman to vote against this bill.

HB462 and SB484 – Mandatory Ultrasounds

These bills would force a woman to get an ultrasound before an abortion, regardless of whether she wants one or her doctor says its medically-necessary. This requires women to undergo a potentially invasive and certainly expensive procedure not for any medical reason, but purely to suit an ideological agenda. Del. Byron and Sen. Vogel are slowly advancing these bills towards becoming law. Unfortunately, SB484 has already passed the Senate (read our statement on this) and is headed over to the House. Del. Byron’s HB462 is scheduled to be heard today.

HB62 – Abortion Funding Repeal for Low-Income Women Facing a Fetal Anomaly

Del. Cole’s particularly egregious bill takes away insurance coverage for abortion care from low-income women choosing abortion in the case of severe and incapacitating fetal anomaly, further marginalizing financially-strapped families making a difficult decision. This bill cleared the House of Delegates (read our statement here) and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education and Health Committee. Please contact your legislator or Sen. Harry Blevins to stop this.

HB464 & SB496 – Health Exchange

This bill would have created a health exchange in Virginia while not allowing the sale of health insurance for abortions except when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest. HB464 has already been tabled. SB496 hasn’t been heard yet but could be headed towards a similar fate.

HB1174 – Separate, But Equal, Health Insurance

Del. Marshall wants to make insurance companies offer two different health policies: one with abortion and one without. This bill has yet to be heard as it’s sits, lonely and cold, in the House Commerce and Labor sub-committee #1. It’ll probably stay right there.

HB1285 and SB637 – 20-Week Bans on Abortion

SB637 was heard and defeated on a tie vote, thanks to Sen. Blevins. His abstention caused a 7-7 split vote and the bill could not advance to the full Senate floor. After listening to a personal and tragic story from a woman that faced pregnancy complications, Sen. Blevins decided he couldn’t make a decision as important as she had to make. So he abstained. We’re hoping he does the same thing when HB1285 comes before him. **Update: Del. Richard Anderson has now withdrawn his similar bill from the House of Delegates! This is an exciting pro-choice victory against this extreme and unconstitutional bill. Read our press statement on the defeat of this proposal.**

SB627 – Wrongful Death

Sen. Stanley has introduced a bill that classifies a fetus as a person when it’s a victim of a wrongful death. It’s now sitting in the Senate Education and Health Committee. **Update: This bill has now passed out of committee and will move to the full Senate.**

Remember to contact your Delegate and state Senator and ask them protect women’s rights and health by voting against these anti-choice bills. You can find out who your representatives are and how to contact them here.

Be sure to keep checking our bill chart to stay updated with these pieces of legislation.  You can email me at sean@naralva.org if you have any questions about how to take action!

Thanks – we’ll be back for another legislative update next week!

On the 39th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we’re still fighting: Guest post by Congressman Jim Moran

Blog for Choice Day 2012

Today is NARAL Pro-Choice America’s annual “Blog for Choice Day” in honor of the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade recognizing a woman’s  constitutional right to have control over her body and reproductive life by being able to choose safe, legal abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s blog is honored today to share a special guest blog post by Congressman Jim Moran, who represents Virginia’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and has long been a champion for women’s rights and health.

U.S. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA8)

Guest post by Representative Jim Moran

Thirty-nine years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the Roe v. Wade case stating that abortion is a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. Sadly, decades later we are still fighting everyday to preserve this fundamental women’s right.

No woman expects or plans for an unintended pregnancy. Those women for whom the unexpected happens are put in a terrible position; the consequences are steep, no matter what she decides. And this personal decision should not be made or interfered with by the federal, state, or local government.

Last year, 92 anti-abortion, anti-choice measures were passed into law across the United States, as well as seven anti-choice measures passed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. One such measure was Virginia’s new targeted regulation of abortion providers (or “TRAP”) law singling out abortion clinics to be treated as ambulatory surgery centers instead of doctor’s offices, as they have been classified. Clinics must now meet hospital-type standards on the size of rooms and widths of hallways, among other changes, possibly forcing closure of many clinics across the commonwealth. I was proud to join with women and men across the Commonwealth to stand against Governor McDonnell’s endorsement of these extreme regulations.

Under the landmark Affordable Care Act, women across the country with private insurance are eligible to receive birth control and other preventative services without paying anything out of pocket. Just this week, the Obama Administration announced women will be able to obtain these benefits beginning this summer. While we continue to fight a larger battle against individuals fighting against women’s health, this week’s news is welcome progress in the fight to expand access to basic health care for women.

Unfortunately, the efforts of anti-choice advocates both in state legislatures and within the halls of Congress will surely extend to the 2012 election  year. This effort to eliminate access to women’s reproductive rights runs contrary to the intent of the Supreme Court’s constitutional ruling. I will continue to strongly advocate for abortion rights for women. This is an issue of great personal conscience that should be free of government interference. The Supreme Court has proclaimed its legality; the rest should be left to a woman, her family and her physician.

We thank Rep. Moran for sharing his thoughts with us today for Blog for Choice Day! Join in by following the posts on NARAL Pro-Choice America’s www.BlogforChoice.com and by sharing your own reflections about about reproductive freedom today. If you’re on Twitter, don’t forget to tag your tweets or links to your blog posts with #Blog4Choice or #Tweet4Choice.

Freedom doesn’t come free…

By Leigh

Last week, we saw that, according to a George Mason University Mercatus Center study entitled, “Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom,” Virginia is the ninth overall freest state in the nation. Furthermore, it is the fifth in economic freedom and 22nd in personal freedom.

In the article, “Virginia ranked 9th in overall freedom,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch states that, “policies were weighted on how much they matter to those affected, and how many people they affect.” But how did the study judge who was affected? According to Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, the list of “those affected” did not encompass all Virginians. Willis says, “freedom is only meaningful if it applies equally to all, and that’s where Virginia falls short.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia believes there are still many Virginians, especially Virginia women, who are continually experiencing restricted freedom. Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bolling, Attorney General Cuccinelli, and a majority of state legislators are completely anti-choice. Having a choice equates to having freedom; therefore, it makes sense that Virginia is only 22nd in personal freedom. Governor McDonnell’s administration and their legislative allies have successfully passed numerous laws that prohibit a women’s freedom to full healthcare access.

In the 2010 legislative session, Virginia prohibited public funding for abortion for those women who are eligible for state medical assistance, except if the woman’s life is in danger or in the case of rape or incest. The 2011 session also provided an abundance of proposed anti-choice legislation. Two bills would have limited private insurance plans from providing abortion coverage (with the governor adding a last-minute amendment banning such coverage). Three separate bills would have given constitutional rights to a fetus at all stages of development. Additionally, one proposed bill would have meddled in the doctor-patient relationship by requiring that a pregnant female receive an ultrasound before she has an abortion.

Anti-choice lawmakers also singled out women’s healthcare for new restrictions.

On July 1st, a bill passed through political maneuvering officially became law. This Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law states that if a facility performs more than five first-trimester abortions a month it is now considered a hospital. Such regulations are politically-motivated and aim to restrict the freedom of women to comprehensive, reproductive health care.

An opinion piece in The Daily Progress entitled, “Freedom is in the eye of the beholder,” further discussed Virginia’s ranking and highlighted a specific quote from the authors of the study: “In our [the authors of the study] view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and properties as they see fit, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.”

Out-of-touch Virginia elected officials continue to infringe on a woman’s right to choose complete, affordable healthcare. Thus, Virginia’s high ranking once again does not extend to Virginia women.

Though people and elected officials may have different ideals about what constitutes freedom, there is no denying that an increase in government regulation reduces an individual’s liberty.

With anti-choice politicians, the freedom of Virginia women is constantly in jeopardy.

Couple-Focused Services in Publicly Funded Family Planning Clinics

By Leigh

The Guttmacher Institute recently released a study entitled, “Couple-Focused Services in Publicly Funded Family Planning Clinics: Identifying the Need, 2009.” In sifting through the sixty-nine page report, I learned it essentially states that both males and females are interested in receiving counseling on family planning and birth control, but that clinic administrators often underestimate this desire for joint counseling.

According to the report, some people believe a joint discussion on family planning will reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and alleviate the issue of misuse of contraception.

While women want services for couples, family planning administrators deal with limited funds, often underestimating couples’ desire for joint counseling.  Men would go to joint counseling if they could fit it in their schedule but definitely want some form of birth control.

I read the information without much thought or surprise, except for one bit, when I finally connected with the data.

I remember when my friends and I were younger and first talking to our parents about the birds and the bees. A common theme amongst my friends was that if you giggled at the condom aisle, you probably weren’t mature enough to have sex. The other agreed-upon truth was that if you couldn’t talk to your partner about sex, then you shouldn’t be sleeping with them in the first place. For me, this survey echoed some of these ideas – if you can’t discuss family planning, birth control, or your health with your partner, why are you engaging in sexual acts with them?

I was not surprised that two-thirds of adult female clients wished to talk to their male partner about “planning to have a baby, choosing and using birth control, and talking about birth control.”  But I was a little concerned that 19 percent of men felt uncomfortable at a family planning clinic and six percent even said they wouldn’t go with their partner. I couldn’t help but wonder, if a man can’t go to a clinic for a discussion, how is he going to survive the delivery room? Luckily, 83 percent of men did say they were willing to go with their female partner and 57 percent wanted to know more about preventing pregnancy.

Women’s health isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s a general health issue. Reproductive rights and health is a conversation we must all be willing to have. Everyone deserves to know where a partner stands on birth control and protection against sexually transmitted infections. Honest conversation, education and preparedness can help reduce the rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies.

So what do you think? Would you and your partner want the option to receive family planning services and counseling together?

Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban! Lobby Day and Rally in D.C. Dec. 2nd!

Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Join pro-choice activists from across the nation to lobby Congress and to rally against the abortion coverage ban in a National Day of Action!

Rally to Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban
Time: From 11:30 – 1:00 p.m.
Where: Upper Senate Park, Washington, D.C.

Meet with your member of Congress
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
(Time depends on meeting schedule)

Please RSVP for rally or sign up for meetings at
emily@naralva.org or 202-530-4168