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! 

Tell your Senator: Protect Virginia’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative!

The Virginia General Assembly is back in Richmond this week for a special session to resume work on the budget, and there was some tentative good news today as the Senate Finance Committee advanced their version of the state’s two-year budget — but your legislators need to hear from you now to make sure it becomes a reality!

As you may remember, Governor Bob McDonnell’s version of the budget, introduced in January, proposed eliminating all state funding for Virginia’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative programs. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, or TPPI, funds programs in seven health districts throughout the state with high rates of pregnancy among teenagers, including Alexandria, Petersburg, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke, and the Eastern Shore. These programs provide sex education, information and resources on health and wellness, and access to contraception for thousands of Virginia young people.

The governor’s proposed budget eliminated all $455,000 in remaining state funding for TPPI programs, after the program’s funding was already slashed in his first two years in office.

Due to our advocacy and pressure by pro-choice legislators in the General Assembly, however, the version of the budget advanced by the Senate Finance Committee today does include restored funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative! If this ends up in the final budget approved by the Governor, it would be great news for the thousands of teens throughout Virginia who are served by this program and receive the knowledge and resources they need to protect their health and prevent unintended pregnancy.

The full Virginia Senate is expected to vote on their version of the budget plan this coming Monday, March 26th. Please contact your Senator today and let them know that preserving strong funding in the budget for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative programs is important to you!

You can find your state Senator and their contact information here.   Email or call their office today and urge them to support funding for teen pregnancy prevention initiatives in the budget plan!

(Once you’ve done that, please share this post and urge your friends and neighbors to do the same!)

Senate committee rejects bill targeting low-income women with severely complicated pregnancies

Good news from the Virginia Senate this morning! We can add H.B. 62, a bill seeking to defund health care coverage for low-income women who choose abortion because of serious fetal anomaly,  to the list of anti-choice bills rejected by the General Assembly this year. (This list already includes the infamous “personhood” for fertilized eggs bill H.B. 1 that the Senate shelved last week, as well as as S.B. 637, which would have outright banned later abortions with only the narrowest exceptions and set up a challenge to Roe v. Wade.)

This morning the Senate Committee on Finance voted to “pass by” H.B. 62 indefinitely, meaning it will not move on to the full Senate for a vote. The bill had previously been approved by the Senate Committee on Education and Health (see our tweets from that hearing here), but an amendment added there had sent the bill to the Finance committee, where it was ultimately rejected. See below for our statement on this legislative victory:

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“Personhood” and Mandatory Ultrasound: What would they mean for Virginia women’s rights and freedom?

On the last days before bills crossover between the House and the Senate for this Virginia General Assembly session, one would think the legislators of each chamber might be be debating bills about the most pressing issues our Commonwealth faces — how to help Virginians and create jobs during the economic recession, how to cut crime in the Commonwealth, how to advance the education of our state’s young people.  But instead, the newly emboldened anti-choice majority in the House of Delegates  spent time pushing two extreme anti-choice measures and advancing them to the state Senate: the highly unpopular measure of granting “personhood” status and rights to fertilized eggs (H.B. 1), and a bill forcing a woman to undergo an ultrasound — even an invasive vaginal probe ultrasound — before an abortion, regardless of whether its medically-necessary or whether a woman wants it  (H.B. 462).

What are these two bills and what would they mean for Virginia women if the state Senate and Governor McDonnell were to approve them? Learn more:

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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!

Thank you Senator Houck

By staff

Sadly, we just learned that pro-choice Senator Edd Houck, who has served in the Virginia state Senate for nearly three decades, has conceded the race for state Senate District 17.

During his time in the state General Assembly and as chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Health, Senator Houck has been 100-percent pro-choice and an adamant champion for the rights and health of all Virginia women.

Thank you Senator Houck for all you have done to protect reproductive health and rights during your years of service.

What does yesterday’s election mean for choice?

By staff

Yesterday was one of the biggest elections for choice in Virginia in the past few years.

From 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. voters across the state went to the polls to vote on all 140 General Assembly seats.

At stake this year was the state Senate, which is currently mixed-choice. This means that when choice-related bills come to the floor of the Senate, we do not have a reliable pro-choice majority to defeat them. We saw the consequences of this situation in January with a 20-20 tie vote to approve new regulations singling out Virginia abortion providers – anti-choice Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling cast the deciding vote to approve the bill and Virginia now faces the strictest abortion regulations in the country. (PDF)

So where does yesterday’s election leave us?

As of this posting, one key Senate race remains too close to call. In Senate District 17, in the city of Fredericksburg and Orange, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Louisa and Albermarle counties, staunchly anti-choice candidate Bryce Reeves is unofficially leading dedicated pro-choice champion Senator Edd Houck – by 86 votes. Senator Houck is entitled to a recount.

Whatever happens in Senator Houck’s race, next year’s Virginia state Senate will still not have a reliable pro-choice majority. Senators Charles Colgan (District 29) and Phil Puckett (District 38), who won their reelection bids, are mixed-choice and voted for several anti-choice bills in the 2012 General Assembly session. (PDF)

What is most distressing is what could happen to the Senate Committee on Education and Health where all choice-related bills go.

Currently Senator Houck is the chair of this committee, which has a majority of strong pro-choice champions. The committee is often the last chance in the General Assembly to stop dangerous anti-choice legislation from moving forward. What is uncertain at this point is how that committee could look next year.

The battle for women’s health in Virginia will continue to be hard-fought in the years ahead, and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, our activists and our allies will continue mobilizing and fighting government intrusion of women’s private medical decisions.

On that note, we wish to congratulate NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia PAC’s endorsed candidates who won their races yesterday.

In the House of Delegates, we congratulate:

  • Delegate Mark Keam, District 35
  • Delegate Ken Plum, District 36
  • Delegate David Bulova, District 37
  • Delegate Kaye Kory, District 38
  • Delegate Vivian Watts, District 39
  • Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, District 41
  • Delegate Mark Sickles, District 43
  • Delegate Scott Surovell, District 44
  • Delegate David Englin, District 45
  • Delegate Charniele Herring, District 46
  • Delegate Patrick Hope, District 47
  • Delegate Robert Brink, District 48
  • Alfonso Lopez, District 49
  • Delegate James Scott, District 53
  • Delegate David Toscano, District 57
  • Delegate Betsy Carr, District 69
  • Delegate Jennifer McClellan, District 71
  • Delegate Mamye BaCote, District 95

In the state Senate, we congratulate:

  • Senator John Miller, District 1
  • Senator Mamie Locke, District 2
  • Senator Ralph Northam, District 6
  • Senator Donald McEachin, District 9
  • Senator John Edwards, District 21
  • Delegate Adam Ebbin, District 30
  • Barbara Favola, District 31
  • Senator Janet Howell, District 32
  • Senator Mark Herring, District 33
  • Senator Dick Saslaw, District 35
  • Senator Toddy Puller, District 36
  • Senator Dave Marsden, District 37
  • Senator George Barker, District 39

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia PAC and our activists worked tirelessly in the last few months to protect and elect pro-choice champions. We look forward to continuing to work with our allies in 2012.

Stay tuned for further analysis of what the election results mean for choice over the coming days.