Governor McDonnell’s Behind-the-Scenes Abortion Ban

Last year, Governor McDonnell faced statewide and national outrage (not to mention ridicule and mockery from the unforgiving world of late-night television) after pushing egregious legislative attacks on the women of Virginia. You would think that after the barrage of media scrutiny and an outpouring of fury from Virginian women, McDonnell might have learned some sort of lesson. Maybe, just maybe, we thought, he would start to trust women to make our own decisions about our bodies, our health, and our lives. Apparently not.

According to the Virginian Pilot, Governor McDonnell is quietly planning a last-minute maneuver to severely restrict Virginian women’s access to health care. How? By attaching anti-choice amendments to H.B.1900 and S.B.921, legislation to implement the Virginia health insurance exchange as set out under the Affordable Care Act.

As part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) all states must construct and/or participate in a health insurance exchange.  This exchange is intended to function as a virtual marketplace, where small businesses and individuals will be able to shop for appropriate and affordable health care. Like all other states, Virginia was given the option to create our own exchange or operate under the federally-run program. Governor McDonnell chose the federal option – with a few exceptions.

According to a letter sent from McDonnell to DC officials yesterday, Virginia will participate in the federal exchange, BUT will maintain decision-making authority over which health care plans are able to participate. As he explains, Virginia state government will continue to have oversight of “whether a health plan or issuer meets particular certification standards”. And his first rule? You guessed it…no coverage for women’s health.

If enacted, McDonnell’s planned amendment would prohibit insurance providers from offering policies in the exchange that cover abortion – coverage that currently exists in almost 90% of plans sold in the private market. In other words, McDonnell’s amendment would make it difficult to impossible for small businesses and individual Virginian women to purchase abortion coverage with private dollars. Instead of improved access to health care (as intended by the Affordable Care Act) many women would see their coverage slashed.

Let’s be clear – this amendment has nothing to do with eliminating public funding for abortion. Obama’s Affordable Care Act already has strict provisions to ensure that no public funds are spent on abortion, and Virginia law already prohibits public funding for abortion except in rare and life-threatening cases. Instead, Governor McDonnell’s amendment would restrict Virginians from purchasing a comprehensive insurance policy with their own private dollars. This is not a matter of government funding, but rather a question of private money – and how the women of Virginia can spend it.

my body my money my choice

We here at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia believe firmly that a woman who decides to have an abortion has the same rights as any other patient seeking any other outpatient procedure. Like every other Virginian, she deserves equal access to the health care she needs.

Furthermore, we know that banning insurance coverage does not reduce the need for abortions; it only creates dangerous outcomes for Virginia women, some of whom may be facing complex and risky pregnancies. While no woman plans on having an abortion,  it is important that she can count on her insurance to cover a full range of health care options. Every Virginian –  every woman –  deserves the ability to make his or her own private medical decisions without interference from the government.

That’s why we are calling on the women of Virginia (and the men who love them) to flood Governor McDonnell’s office with emails and phone calls in opposition to this dangerous amendment. It’s easy to take a stand – simply click here, personalize your message to Governor McDonnell, and enter your name in the box. Then tell your friends, your family members, and your social media contacts (we know you’ve got them) to do the same!

Although this amendment is a clear and outrageous attack on women’s health, Governor McDonnell knows that most Virginians don’t pay attention to every bill that goes through the General Assembly – let alone every amendment. He is counting on this lack of knowledge, which is exactly why we need to expose how dangerous, underhanded, and restrictive this amendment is. Please join NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia in taking action now. Together, we will tell Governor McDonnell: Our body, our money, our choice!

Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition Tweetchat!

This Thursday,  Feb. 7th, is the Virginia Pro-Choice Day of Action….and we are PUMPED.

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia is so excited to join our fellow women’s health advocates and activists in locations across the Commonwealth as we fight for reproductive rights and critical access to health care. With events in Arlington, Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Roanoke, and DC, there are a TON of opportunities for you to get involved this Thursday! Check out our registration page for more details, including shift times, locations, and directions. We can’t wait to see you there!

Stuck at work or at home on Thursday? No worries – there are plenty of ways for you to take action online. This year, we are happy to announce our Day of Action Tweetchat, which will take place from 1-2pm!

DOA Tweetchat

On Thursday at this time, Virginia’s health care providers, pro-choice organizations, and women’s rights activists will be live-tweeting about the status of reproductive rights, choice, and access in VA – and how we can ensure safe, affordable, and accessible health care for all.

We will also have some special guests joining us, including: WIN (@WINonline), fabulous feminist bloggers & activists Erin Matson (@ErinToTheMax) and Jessica Pieklo (@hegemommy), superstar women’s rights advocate Lily Bolourian (@LilyBolourian), and others!

Join the conversation this Thursday from 1-2pm by following us (@NARALvirginia) and using the hashtag #4healthVA. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the ongoing fight for Virginia’s reproductive health!

Members of the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition:

PCC coaltion orgs

Virginia NOW, Progress VA, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, Unite Women Virginia, National Council of Jewish Women of Virginia, Jewish Community Relations Council of Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, League of Women Voters of Virginia, American Association of University Women of Virginia

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.

Three ways to help keep Virginia women out of an anti-choice TRAP

Governor McDonnell and his allies in the General Assembly wage a continuous campaign to undermine access to comprehensive reproductive health care for Virginia women.

That is why we are working with the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health to stop the McDonnell Administration from playing politics with women’s lives.

Be sure to read our latest action alert and visit our website to learn more about the issue and how you can join us in standing up for continued reproductive health access for women across the Commonwealth.

Choice News Updates

Here are a couple of choice stories from last week!

Liberty University’s Health Care Lawsuit Is Dismissed

Last Tuesday a federal judge dismissed Liberty University’s lawsuit against the government over the new health care law. The university claimed that the law violated its religious rights because some of the money collected for insurance could be used for abortion, which the Christian school opposes.

This, however, is untrue. In fact, while the health care debate was occurring earlier this year, the White house issued an executive order clearly stating no federal funds would be used for elective abortion services under the health care legislation. Judge Norman K. Moon reminded Liberty University of this fact.

Liberty University’s claim of an “abortion mandate” has been a favorite tactic of anti-choice groups and opponents of health care reform. Judge Moon wrote in his decision that the law “contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used for abortion services beyond those in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered.”

Anti-choice organizations and leaders have often muddied the waters by making misleading claims that the health care bill mandates abortion coverage. We will continue to educate the public, in the hope that truth will trump misinformation.

Trust Women, Respect Choice Plates Now Available!

They're Here!

In a recent blog post, we updated you on the status of Virginia’s Trust Women, Respect Choice license plates. At that time, the more than 350 people who pre-ordered the plates were beginning to receive them in the mail. Well, the plates are now officially available for general purchase through the DMV!

If you’ll recall, earlier this year the plate had to go through several hurdles. First, Delegate Gilbert attempted to divert funds raised from the plate to the Pregnant Woman Support Fund, an empty and unused government fund. Fortunately, his amendment was defeated. Then, Governor McDonnell continued to show his anti-choice colors by amending the bill to make sure no proceeds from the plate would go to abortion services even though Planned Parenthood had already made that fact clear. With the hard work of our dedicated activists and supporters (and the threat of a discrimination lawsuit), the license plate bill passed!

Because it is a revenue-sharing plate, after 1000 are sold, $15 of every $25 plate fee will go to the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and be used to provide essential, preventative women’s health services such as contraception, pap smears, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. That means, the more we have on the roads the more we help low-income women access family planning care through Planned Parenthood.

So, show off the fact that Virginia really is Pro-Choice! Order yours today!

[Thanks to our intern Emily for her work on this post.]