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!

Senate power shift is HUGE win for women’s health

GREAT news from Richmond! 

Earlier this week, Lynwood Lewis officially defeated his anti-choice opponent to become the next Senator from the Eastern Shore.  With his swearing in yesterday, Sen. Lewis and newly-elected  Sen. Jennifer Wexton give Democrats 20 votes in the evenly divided Virginia Senate  – with pro-choice champion LG Ralph Northam as the tie-breaking vote!

Because of these changes, Democrats were able to officially take control of the Virginia Senate yesterday afternoon. And one of their first orders of business was to reorganize the membership of Senate committees, including the critically important Senate Education & Health committee. The Senate Education and Health committee is responsible  for hearing almost all choice-related legislation, and until yesterday the committee had a strong anti-choice majority.  But not anymore. 

Starting today, the Education & Health committee has a significant pro-choice majority — and has added three new amazing Senators who have long stood for women’s health and rights!  Here are the new pro-choice Senators on the Education & Health committee: 

Sen. Barbara Favola

Sen. Barbara Favola

Sen. Favola is a fierce advocate for women’s health who has received a 100% rating on our scorecard since elected to office. Sen. Favola is also the Senate chair of the Reproductive Health Care Caucus.

Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller

Sen. Puller is a steadfast pro-choice champion representing parts of Fairfax and Prince William County. Since her election in 2000, Puller has consistently received a 100% pro-choice rating from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

Sen. John Edwards

Sen. Edwards represents parts of Roanoke and Blacksburg cities in Southwestern VA, and like his colleagues above has a 100% score from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.  Sen. Edwards was pulled off this critical committee when Republicans took power over the Senate in 2012,  and we’re thrilled to welcome him back!

The new make-up of the Senate Education & Health committee – as well as it’s new 100% pro-choice Chair Sen. Louise Lucas – is a HUGE victory for women’s health. Instead of seeing critical bills  defeated by anti-choice extremists in committee, women’s health advocates will now have our best shot in years to advance positive, proactive legislation that will move Virginia forward.  And with a pro-choice majority on the Ed & Health committee, we will be better able to stop extreme anti-choice bills before they ever reach the Senate floor!

We’re thrilled to bring you this good news from the Capitol – and we’ll continue updating you on important choice-related activity as it occurs. For up-to-the-minute updates, join our Legislative Rapid Response Team or sign up for VA Choice Texts! 

BREAKING: Help repeal VA mandatory ultrasound law NOW!

Last night, pro-choice Virginians won a huge victory when Lynwood Lewis was officially declared the next state Senator from District 6. With this narrow win, Democrats are poised to possibly take control over the Virginia senate with a 20-20 split and pro-choice champion Ralph Northam as the tie-breaking vote!

Unfortunately, extreme anti-choice politicians will stop at nothing to continue their attacks on Virginians’ health and rights.  While Democrats appear ready to take power over the Senate, a small GOP-controlled subcommittee will attempt one last attack on women’s health — defeating a pro-choice bill to repeal the mandatory ultrasound law!

This is nothing but a sneaky attempt to kill critical pro-choice legislation behind closed doors – and possibly right before power shifts. We need your help RIGHT NOW to fight back: Contact Sen. Newman (Chairman of the Health Care Subcommittee) and tell him to take S.B 617 off of today’s agenda!

Talking points: 

  •  S.B 617  is a common-sense bill to repeal Virginia’s invasive and insulting mandatory ultrasound ban and improve access to healthcare for thousands of women and families.  If passed, SB 617  would return private medical decisions back to patients and doctors – and get politicians out of Virginians’ personal healthcare choices.
  • With the recount results yesterday, it appears that Democrats are poised to take Senate power.  This bill should be given a full hearing by our rightfully elected officials – not sneakily buried behind closed doors.
  • I will be watching closely to see if you act in favor of women’s health and fair government — or if you continue to play games with our basic health and rights. 

In case Sen. Newman refuses to take the bill off the the agenda today, it is critical that we contact other subcommittee members and urge them to support SB 617. Tell these subcommittee members to support SB 617 and repeal Virginia’s ultrasound law now:

Talking points: 

  • 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. Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman. You can’t make that decision for someone else.
  • 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.
  • Women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy.

Thank you so much for taking action! 

A Farewell Post

By: Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy and Communications Intern

As my semester interning for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia is coming to an end today, I wanted to write a post to reflect on my time here.

This was quite the semester to work with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia! I must admit that before this semester I did not pay too close attention to local and statewide politics. After knocking on over 200 doors, writing profiles for pro-choice House of Delegates candidates, I learned a lot about the value of mobilizing a community and electing pro-choice candidates to the local government. I’m really thankful for being able to take part in some of the efforts that helped elect pro-choice candidates on the statewide ballot and in the General Assembly.

Along with working on the election, I also helped with some research on Crisis Pregnancy Centers and am currently helping with our latest campaign, #hope4prochoiceva. I have learned a lot in my time here, and though I am leaving, this will not be the end of my involvement with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia! I hope to continue the fight for prioritizing women’s reproductive rights over politics and to help Virginia become the pro-choice commonwealth it should be.

Thank you all for reading! I’ll see you guys at the next NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia event!

Your Priorities versus Their Priorities

Over the past few days, pro-choice activists from across the Commonwealth have taken the time to share their top priorities for pro-choice Virginia. We found that Virginians are concerned with a range of reproductive issues, from repealing TRAP regulations and mandatory ultrasounds to ensuring low-income women have access to health-care.

Pro-choice Virginia has spoken out about their priorities, but extreme anti-choice politicians in the Commonwealth are still planning to follow their own agenda. Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) is already continuing his crusade against the women of Virginia- this time by introducing legislation to restrict birth control!

Delegate Bob Marshall has proposed three bills (H.B. 18, H.B. 19, H.B. 20), which if passed, would allow your boss to refuse to cover your birth control and sterilization procedures based on their own personal beliefs. After the markedly pro-choice election in November, this would be a HUGE step backward for women and families in Virginia. We need to do everything we can to fight back against these bills.

Over the next seven weeks we will be busy researching upcoming legislation, meeting with lawmakers, talking to the media, and doing all we can to fight for your pro-choice priorities. We’re going to need your help to do all of this and make choice a reality for all Virginians!

Your contribution of $10, $25 or whatever you can give today will help us start working now to fight anti-choice legislation.

 

What’s your hope for a pro-choice Virginia?

By Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy & Communications Intern  

Last week, thanks to the support of pro-choice voters across the Commonwealth, Virginians elected pro-choice Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam as our next governor and lieutenant governor! And with Mark Herring in the lead to become our next attorney general, Virginia is on the verge of having elected a pro-choice statewide ticket for the first time in decades!

 But even as we applaud the amazing success of our pro-choice candidates, we know that there is still work to be done – especially at the legislative level – to make choice a reality for all Virginians. That’s why we want to hear from you right now. What are your hopes for a pro-choice Virginia?

Fill out our survey now and tell us your top pro-choice priorities. We’ll use your input to inform our work ahead – and share your hopes with our newly elected Governor, LG, and AG!

Here’s just a few of our hopes for a pro-choice Virginia:

My hope is to ensure access to abortion and family planning services for low-income women!

My hope is to ensure access to abortion and family planning services for low-income women!

Caroline's hope is to improve teen pregnancy prevention through comprehensive sex-education

Caroline’s hope is to improve teen pregnancy prevention through comprehensive sex-education

Maggie's hope is to stop government support for dangerous crisis pregnancy centers!

Maggie’s hope is to stop government support for dangerous crisis pregnancy centers!

You can tell us your hopes for a pro-choice Virginia by filling out our survey here, or by taking your own picture & sharing it with us on facebook or twitter! Or simply tweet at us using the hashtag #hope4prochoiceVA!

Thanks for everything you have done. Together we accomplished a lot this election –and I know we will keep working together to accomplish even more.

Way to go, Virginia!

Approximately one week ago, Virginia awoke to the exciting news of Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam being elected as the next governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. As votes are still being counted in the attorney general race, news of Mark Herring pulling ahead has spread and as has the hope that Virginia has elected a solidly pro-choice ticket of leaders. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia would like to take this time to congratulate Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam and further support and encourage Mark Herring.

Sen.-Herring-McAuliffe-and-Sen.-Northam-AP

Furthermore, we would like to thank and commend all those that contributed to this success as we reached previously unprecedented numbers prior to November 5:

Infographic VA Election

Lastly, we would like to recognize a number of other hard-wrought races and the pro-choice candidates we worked closely with:

  • Atif Qarni, District 13: Atif challenged Bob Marshall and was narrowly defeated by only 497 votes, the closest race of Marshall’s career. NARAL volunteers knocked on 4500 doors for Atif.
  • Kathleen Murphy, District 34: NARAL volunteers knocked on approximately 3600 doors for Kathleen, leading to competitive race against Barbara Comstock. Ultimately, Comstock won by a close 431 votes.
  • Richard Cabellos, District 5: Community activist Richard Cabellos ran a strong campaign against anti-choice Jackson Miller.  NARAL Volunteers knocked on over 400 doors for Cabellos for his first ever political campaign, increasing his name recognition in the district.
  • Rob Farinholt, District 94: Pro-choice Rob Farinholt lost to anti-choice incumbent David Yancey by only 537 votes, with NARAL volunteers knocking on approximately 1,000 doors for Farinholt’s campaign.
  •  John Bell, District 87:  In his second run for the House of Delegates, this time against anti-choice incumbent David Ramadan, pro-choice John Bell ran an incredibly strong campaign.  Ramadan only defeated Bell by 195 votes, and Bell has cited the help of NARAL volunteers who knocked on over 4,000 doors as a large reason for such a close race.
     Jennifer Boysko, District 86: This one isn’t over yet–in the closest House of Delegates race in Virginia, pro-choice activist Jennifer Boysko is only 56 votes behind anti-choice Republican Tom Rust.  The Boysko campaign is watching the count of provisional ballots cast in the election and plans to ask the state for a recount as soon as possible.  If successful, Boysko’s election would eliminate the Republican House of Delegate’s veto-proof majority.

Furthermore, 17 NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia endorsed incumbents kept their seats and 1 House of Delegate seat was gained with Monty Mason’s, District 93, victory; there will also be a special election in District 6 for lieutenant governor-elect Ralph Northam’s state Senate seat with a Democratic caucus set to take place November 16.

We are honored and proud to have worked so closely with such talented and passionate individuals and look forward to their future success in whatever endeavors they may pursue. Stay tuned to local news outlets as ballot counts progress and we look forward to what our newly elected officials will accomplish.

Join us for a screening of ‘After Tiller’!

Come join us along with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and NARAL Pro-Choice America for a screening of the award-winning documentary ‘After Tiller‘ on Thursday, November 7 at 7:20 PM at the West End Cinema!

After-Tiller-film-poster-II

‘After Tiller’ shares the story of the impact of Dr. George Tiller’s murder in 2009 and the work his close colleagues, the only four doctors in the United States that openly provide late-term abortions, are continuing. Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson intertwine candid interviews along with scenes of daily life in the clinic and surrounding environment, as the doctors experience resistance for their work. The screening will be followed by a Q & A session with a special guest as well as NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene and NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Executive Director Jodi Finkelstein. Tickets can be purchased here and please be sure to select the showing on November 7 at 7:20. Please join us at the West End Cinema and we look forward to seeing you there!