By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2015 Virginia legislative session has officially come and gone. The past two months brought many setbacks and successes, but more importantly it proved that we can accomplish great things with help from our amazing volunteers.
For that, we cannot thank you enough!
In case you missed it, here’s what happened for choice during this year’s General Assembly:
January 6th: Virginians in the 34th district elected pro-choice champion Kathleen Murphy to the House of Delegates. Murphy claimed the seat once held by the extremely anti-choice congresswoman Barbara Comstock.
January 8th: In conjunction with other advocates for Virginia women and families, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia launched the Virginia Women’s Equality Coalition–a new partnership to secure women’s equality and advance women’s rights throughout the Commonwealth. Designed to promote women’s health and safety, economic opportunity, and democratic participation, the WEA unveiled its 2015 Women’s Equality Agenda— a package of proposed legislation designed to progress women’s issues throughout the state in hopes of achieving equality for Virginia women.
January 22nd: In honor of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition held its 2015 Day of Action. Virginians from across the Commonwealth came together to stand up for women’s health. The day proved to be successful, as activists met with legislators, took to the streets, and made phone calls in support of reproductive rights and Virginia women!
In Northern Virginia, activists called over 80 legislators, urging them to vote in favor of SB 773 –a repeal of Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound requirement sponsored by Senator Mamie Locke. 50 lobbyists gathered in Richmond to meet with legislators and discuss pro-choice/pro-women legislation.
Supporters in Hampton Roads held a rally and made over 200 phone calls in favor of pro-choice legislation. A live tweet chat was held as well as multiple campus events–including tabling, a coffee chat and a giant social media push.
January 29th: Three proactive pro-choice bills were introduced before the Senate Education and Health committee and a group of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia activists were present to testify for each piece of legislation.
Senator Donald McEachin presented SB 769, a bill designed to repeal the current ban on insurance coverage for abortion within Virginia’s health care exchange. Unfortunately, the bill was defeated 7-8 (a party line vote) in committee.
Several pro-choice activist were present to speak out in favor of SB 733, a bill presented by Senator Mamie Locke aimed to overturn Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound requirement. Locke’s bill was also defeated by a 7-8 vote.
SB 920 was the last pro-choice bill to be introduced that day. Sponsored by Senator Jennifer Wexton, if passed, the legislation would remove the 24-hour mandatory waiting period prior to abortion. Unfortunately, SB 920 was also defeated.
January 30th: The House Courts of Justice Constitutional Law Subcommittee heard testimony from our activists and voted on the following pro-choice bills:
- HB 1524: Delegate Jeion Ward introduced a House version of legislation to repeal Virginia’s burdensome and medically-unnecessary mandatory ultrasound requirement.
- HB 2287: Introduced by Delegate Patrick Hope, the bill would prohibit an employer from taking adverse action against the reproductive health decisions of an employee.
- HB 1541: Legislation introduced by Delegate Vivian Watts aimed to define birth control to mean “contraceptive methods that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration” and is not considered as a means of abortion.
Unfortunately, all three bills were defeated.
February 6th: NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia activists gathered at the General Assembly building in Richmond to witness firsthand how members of a House subcommittee would vote on HB 2321—a dangerous anti-choice bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation.
The legality of the 20-week abortion ban was questioned by members of the House Courts Subcommittee on Constitutional Law from the start.
After careful examination and questioning, the bill’s chief patron Delegate Dave LaRock was given the choice to either let the subcommittee apprehensively cote on the bill as is, or let the bill be pulled and reworked later down the road. LaRock decided to withdraw his bill – and women across Virginia breathed a sigh of relief.
February 24th: In a final anti-choice push, the Virginia House of Delegates introduced a budget outline that included many dangerous measures to attack women’s health. If passed, budget items 4-5.04 #1h and #6h would have stripped funding for low-income women who suffer tragic fetal health complications and uphold medically inappropriate restrictions on Virginia women’s health centers.
Thanks to the action from our outspoken volunteers, the Virginia budget included zero attacks on women’s health and rights!
Again, we want to think you for helping us stop #antichoice attacks during this year’s General Assembly. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: We will NOT stop fighting for women’s health and rights–and we cannot do it without your support.