2013 Gen. Assembly Review!

The 2013 General Assembly session was fast and furious! Between attacks on birth control, pro-choice repeal bills, and sneaky amendments in the works, you may be confused about what exactly this year’s GA session means for the women of Virginia. But don’t worry – we’re here to break it down.

This year pro-choice champions in the Virginia House and Senate carried a total of 11 pro-choice bills, including legislation to repeal TRAP regulations, protect birth control in the Commonwealth, and strike Virginia’s current mandatory ultrasound requirement. We also faced 5 anti-choice bills, including legislation to restrict insurance coverage for birth control, ban sex-selective abortion, and repeal Medicaid funding for women with severe fetal anomalies.

Unfortunately, despite the valiant efforts of our legislative allies and our amazing pro-choice supporters, almost all pro-choice bills were defeated this session. Virginia’s anti-choice politicians were quick to strike down critical legislation to repeal TRAP regulations and the forced ultrasound law – in one case without even allowing for debate or discussion! Thankfully, we were happy and proud to see the passage of Del. Jennifer McClellan’s bill HB 1876, a pro-choice measure that will eliminate the waiting period before sterilization for Virginia residents who have not yet had children. Currently, childless women and men in Virginia are required to wait 30 days before obtaining an elective sterilization procedure, while those with children are not. This bill makes it easier for every person to decide whether and when to create a family, and we thank Del. McClellan for her great work on this!

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We are also relieved to report that despite several legislative attempts to restrict women’s health, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our allies were able to defeat all anti-choice legislation this session – a huge win considering our overwhelming anti-choice state government!  We could not have done it without you and the hundreds of other pro-choice Virginians who contacted their representatives and demanded an end to Virginia’s War on Women. Thank you for everything you have done!

Unfortunately, while the session may have come to an end, the fight is far from over. As reported in a recent Virginian Pilot article, Governor McDonnell is quietly planning to attach an amendment to health care reform legislation that would severely restrict Virginian women’s ability to access critical health care. Although we were able to defeat all anti-choice bills at the committee level, Governor McDonnell would attach his amendment to a bill that has already cleared both the House and Senate – and would go to a vote by both chambers during the General Assembly’s veto session at the end of March. Get more information McDonnnell’s behind-the-scenes abortion ban – and help us fight back!   

Ultimately, beyond the legislative antics and extreme anti-choice rhetoric (check out this gem from Sen. Dick Black), every General Assembly session reminds us of how lucky we are to work with Virginia’s amazing, passionate, and unstoppable pro-choice activists! This year we stood with you in Richmond to honor 40 years of Roe v. Wade, participated in a super successful Pro-Choice Day of Action, and even took to twitter to fight for increased health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Virginia’s women and families.

We look forward to your support, activism, and enthusiasm as we continue the fight for reproductive rights in the Commonwealth!

2012 General Assembly Session in Review – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

The 2012 Virginia General Assembly session has finally come to an end. However, the general assembly adjourned without passing a budget because pro-choice senators would not stand by while funding for initiatives like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPI) were being cut. They have a list of demands that they would like funded before they are willing to budge.

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We are hoping the TPPI money will be restored since these programs have shown real progress in reducing teen pregnancy in areas of the state with the highest rates. It’s not too late to let your legislator know that you think restoring TPPI funding and helping teens make healthy, responsible decisions should be a priority in budget negotiations. (Not sure who your legislator is? Check here to find out.)

Below is a quick choice-related wrap up on the good, the bad and the ugly of this session. To tell you the truth, in December, we feared we would see the passage of “personhood” and many other anti-choice priorities. It just goes to show that a lot of hard work and public outreach can go a long, long way! We could not have defeated the bills that we did without the support and action of our members, activists and allies.

Here is a quick run through of both our successes and difficult losses this year: Continue reading

The War Against Women: Coming to a Town Near You

By Brooke

Yesterday, Amanda Iacone of Virginia Statehouse News published an article documenting the war on women that is occurring locally as well as on a national level.

Several states have pursued “copycat” legislation with the overall goal of limiting women’s access to reproductive healthcare. (Copycat laws are just that – laws passed in one state to further restrict women’s health that another state copies.)

Virginia is no exception.

Banning abortion coverage through private insurance exchanges is just one example of such legislation across the country and in Virginia.

Virginia women have also been subjected to TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) laws that passed in the last session of the General Assembly; a type of legislation that Virginia Statehouse News calls “one of the most common methods lawmakers use to curb the number of abortions by limiting women’s access or shutting down the providers.”

President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Nancy Keenan, was featured in the article, calling out politicians who came into office with big promises of job creation and economic relief, but have thus far only delivered attacks on women’s rights. Keenan stated: “In (the) next 18 months, I think you’re going to see a backlash of the public. First they thought this was about jobs and the economy — it really has been more about outlawing abortion care in this country.”

The fear for Virginia women and families now lies in the potential for other copycat legislation. Virginia’s anti-choice elected officials put Virginia at risk of anti-choice legislation that has been seen in other areas of the country such as the defunding of Planned Parenthood, requirements that women wait up to 72 hours before abortions, or even criminalization of doctors who perform abortions.

To see the damage that has been done by anti-choice officials in the General Assembly and Governor McDonnell’s administration regarding this war against women, check out our “The McDonnell Administration’s War on Women’s Health: By the Numbers” video. Don’t forget to see how you state legislator stacks up on women’s health issues by reviewing our 2011 Legislative Scorecard.

Summer Intern Series Part 2: Sex & Politics in the Capital City

By Brooke

This summer, Advocates for Youth, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, Choice USA and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS), along with partner organizations are holding a series of lunchtime talks for DC-area interns working for organizations with similar goals.

In yesterday’s third segment of Sex & Politics in theCapitalCity, the topic was “Understanding the Attacks on Federally Funded Programs: Discussion on Title X, Medicaid and the Role of Organizations.”

A principal theme of this week’s talk was that there is a national war occurring against women and, more specifically, minority women. The luncheon was led by a panel with representatives from the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, the National Health Law Program, and the DC Abortion Fund.

A lot of our discussion centered on the topic of reproductive healthcare for poverty-stricken minority groups. There was a clear focus on the impact that funding cuts to Title X and Medicaid specifically will have on women’s reproductive health and the perpetuation of poverty amongst minorities.

Because 60 percent of people receiving Medicaid are minorities, these funding cuts are affecting minorities the most. Movements to defund Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers are also affecting minority women disproportionately because minority women are more likely to use a publically funded facility.

A great point made about these funding cuts to healthcare services is that they have been specifically focused on reproductive healthcare, creating segregation between general healthcare and reproductive healthcare. The problem? Reproductive healthcare is healthcare!

What I really took away from this presentation was how much influence politicians have on our rights. If this worries you too, help us support pro-choice candidates who have women’s reproductive rights in mind.

Lobby Day December 2

With more than 50 activists from Virginia, and at least another 1,200 from around the country, Pro-Choiceers made a huge impact yesterday on Capital Hill, rallying and lobbying our elected officials to ensure that the Senate’s version of a Healthcare Reform bill does not include any type of abortion coverage ban (aka anything similar to the Stupak-Pitts amendment introduced and passed in the House), and that the final Healthcare Reform Bill doesn’t either. While the status quo, as codified by the Hyde Amendment prohibits any federal dollars from funding abortions, the Stupak amendment prohibits any private insurance provider participating in the exchange from covering abortion services as well. This means women’s own private plans, paid for by private money, don’t cover reproductive health care services, and will detrimentally affect all women. We must act now to stop it!

Please take five minutes to call your elected representative and tell them you don’t want any Abortion Coverage Bans in the Healthcare Reform Bill! We were told yesterday that all of their offices are keeping tallies so your phone call is especially important!

Senator Webb:(202)-224-4024
Senator Warner: (202) 224 2023
Representative Rick Boucher: (202)-225-3861
Representative Tom Perriello:(202) 225-4711
Representative Rob Wittman: 202-225-4261
Representative Glenn Nye: 202-225-4215
Representative Bobby Scott: 202-225-8351
Representative J. Randy Forbes: 202-225-6365
Representative Bob Goodlatte: 202-225-5431
Representative Eric Cantor: 202-225-2815
Representative Jim Moran: 202-225-4376
Representative Frank R. Wolf: 202-225-5136
Representative Gerald E. (Gerry) Connolly: 202-225-1492

Nancy Keenan on the Stupak Ammendment

Nancy Keenan was on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last night to discuss the Stupak Amendment. In case you missed it, we will be posting a video of her segment shortly.

In the meantime, we wanted to share this link to Nancy’s interview on “Talk of the Nation,” a nationally syndicated NPR program. She discusses the implications of the Stupak Amendment and the importance of letting the Senate know that we want them to stand strong against similar attacks on choice in the Senate.

“The Stupak amendment, it is an abortion ban. That means that women in this country cannot buy health care insurance that would cover abortion care with their own money – with their own money.”

And the first thing that we’re doing right now, weve turned our attention entirely to the United States Senate. We are going to make sure and are already contacting Senator Reid to say that language is not acceptable and it can’t be in the bill. We then will be contacting everyone of those senators on that side of the equation and making sure they understand that this goes beyond the status quo, that this goes beyond Hyde. And that its not acceptable and we expect them to stand with us and stand with women in this country to not lose ground under the health care reform bill.

Nancy’s part starts at about 12 minutes, 40 seconds and goes to the end.

In addition, please see the following story from Politico that references efforts to keep the Stupak-Pitts language out of the Senate bill.