Raising the Profile of LARCs

By Elizabeth Arzt, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Communications Fellow

43% of all unintended pregnancies are due to incorrect or inconsistent use of contraception. This shocking statistic can be remedied with greater awareness and widespread use of long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs. LARC methods, which include hormonal implants and Intrauterine devices (IUDs), have an unparalleled 99% rate of effectiveness. Despite their reliability, fewer than 10% of women currently use one of these methods. Last week was LARC Awareness week, a nationwide campaign where women shared why their LARC was right for them. Here are some of the benefits women shared about using LARCs:

Exceptionally Effective

Once inserted by the doctor, LARC requires no input from the user, completely removing the human error that reduces the efficacy of other forms of contraception. No need to remember to take a pill, or have a diaphragm ready to go. LARC acts as the “set it and forget it” method. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, LARCs were shown to be 20 times as effective at preventing unintended pregnancy than the ring, the patch, or the pill.

Cost Efficient

Insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act include coverage for the procedure’s cost of insertion and removal. All new insurance plans obtained through the act’s exchanges fully cover all contraceptive methods without any co-payments or other out-of-pocket costs. Furthermore, there is no need to purchase refills or replacements that are required with other methods.

Widespread Use

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “almost all women are appropriate candidates” for the LARC methods currently available, including adolescents and women who have never had children. Fertility returns right after removal and there are no adverse risks to future pregnancies.

LARCs offer women a safe, convenient, and long-lasting choice for preventing pregnancy. We must dispel myths, educate providers, and continue to spread the word about the advantages of choosing LARCs. LoveMyLARC_Infographic

Limiting the Rights of Women Who Serve

By Elizabeth Arzt, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Communications Fellow 

Veterans Day is a time when we honor our nation’s active service members and veterans. This day also serves as a reminder that the United States continues to deny American servicewomen the vital reproductive healthcare services that they so desperately need.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 97% of active duty servicewomen are of reproductive age, yet they receive inaccurate reproductive counseling, limited access to contraception, and insufficient insurance coverage for abortion. These inadequate services result in a 50% higher rate of unintended pregnancy in military servicewomen than the general population.

Supposedly Tricare, the healthcare plan for active-duty service members and veterans, covers reproductive counseling prior to deployment. However, in a 2012 survey among servicewomen, the National Institutes of Health found routine reports of women receiving inaccurate information about contraceptives. Women reported that they were told they were ineligible for long acting reversible contraception, such as intra uterine devices, because they had never carried a pregnancy to term – a completely distorted claim. What’s even more shocking, servicewomen were falsely informed that sexual contact of any kind was forbidden, rendering contraception totally unnecessary.

Tricare does cover most commonly used forms of contraception, but there are obstacles to using contraception while overseas. It’s difficult to schedule a time to take a daily pill when traveling across time zones, harsh environmental conditions make it difficult to use a contraceptive patch and obtaining refills of the same pill can be challenging.

After overcoming misguided counseling and high hurdles to contraceptive access, military servicewomen and veterans face strict federal rules banning insurance coverage of abortion. Tricare excludes abortion coverage for active duty service members and veterans, except in narrow circumstances. As if options were not already severely limited, Congress has altogether banned abortion procedures from being conducted on military bases. It’s critical to understand that service members depend on military hospitals for all of their healthcare needs.  Once deployed, women often do not have access to abortion care because they are stationed in hostile or remote areas with few functional clinics and poorly trained personnel. These restrictions endanger the health of American women in uniform. A servicewoman facing unintended pregnancy has just as much right to an abortion as any other American woman.

Now that Veterans Day has passed and we have thanked our active duty service members and veterans for their valuable service, this year let’s make sure those platitudes don’t ring hollow. We can show our servicewomen and veterans the dignity they deserve by supporting efforts that would abolish these restrictions on abortion and grant them the right to end a pregnancy safely.

Unpacking Tuesday’s Election Results

By Elizabeth Arzt, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Communications Fellow 

I’m so proud to be a part of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s expansive election year program. Our operation was instrumental in achieving substantial pro-choice gains in Virginia’s General Assembly. Our team knocked on 14,500 doors and made 26,000 phone calls to educate and mobilize pro-choice voters in targeted districts throughout the Commonwealth. We far exceeded our goals by knocking on 40% more households and contacting over 45,000 voters.

Although, we did not reach our ultimate goal to elect a pro-choice majority to the State Senate, we came closer than ever before. Here are the critical election results that NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s stellar team helped to secure:

  • We gained an additional pro-choice voice in the State Senate with the election of Jeremy McPike in Senate District 29 (Prince William County) who is replacing outgoing anti-choice Senator Chuck Colgan. What’s more, McPike defeated anti-choice Hal Parrish, who passed a de facto abortion ban in the city of Manassas.
  • We elected three new prochoice leaders to the House Delegates in districts currently being held by anti-choice lawmakers — ending the anti-choice GOP supermajority in the House. Our new pro-choice champions include: Jennifer Boysko in House District 86 (Fairfax/Loudon) John Bell in House District 87 (Loudon/Prince William) and Steve Heretick House District 79 (Norfolk/Portsmouth).
  • We held notorious anti-choice Senators Dick Black (Loudon) and Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach) to their closest margins of victory in years, by educating voters about their record and supporting their pro-choice challengers.

With anti-choice majorities in the House and Senate, we will have some tough battles in the 2016 legislative session. But, I’m inspired by what we gained through collective action in this election. Our pro-choice gains demonstrate what we can achieve with determination and resolve. I hope you’ll join me in the upcoming legislative session to continue the fight to protect women’s health.

For the inside scoop on our election work, join us for our 2015 Election Debrief Webinar on Thursday, November 19 at 6:30 p.m. Sign up here.

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Exposing Fake Women’s Health Clinics 

By Elizabeth Arzt, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Communications Fellow

You’ve probably seen those billboards or online ads with messages like “Pregnant? Scared?” that advertise free pregnancy tests – but are otherwise vague about their mission and the services offered.

It’s a common advertising ploy used by anti-choice groups that call themselves “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs). These facilities pose as women’s health clinics then use lies and manipulation to dissuade women from considering their full range of reproductive options. Understanding CPCs is key to evaluating the scope and agenda of the anti-choice movement in Virginia and across the country.

In 2010 and again in 2013, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia volunteers went undercover to understand what it’s like for women seeking counseling at Crisis Pregnancy Centers. We outlined our findings in an investigative report, Crisis Pregnancy Centers Revealed.

Last week, our Director of Advocacy and Communications, Alena Yarmosky, shared the investigation’s findings with a new group of enthusiastic volunteers and activists in a briefing and webinar.*

Here are my top takeaways:

CPCs pose as comprehensive health care clinics

CPCs don’t offer medical and social services provided by comprehensive health clinics, but they do offer free pregnancy tests and limited services to lure women into their facilities. They are also known to list themselves as abortion providers in the online directory, and may use ambiguous names with the hope that women will confuse them with a legitimate medical provider.

Virginia’s CPCs use medically inaccurate information to discourage women from ending their pregnancies.

The investigation found that of the 56 centers identified, an astounding 40 facilities shared some degree of distorted medical information. They suggested that women who have abortions can get eating disorders, become alcoholic, drug addict, or that abortion could lead to infertility. One investigator reported, “The counselor said if I am a certain blood type, an abortion could cause my body to create antibodies that would attack my baby the next time I got pregnant.”

CPCs target underserved populations

CPCs target groups that are the most underserved by the current health-care system including, women of color, college students, and low income women.  CPCs are targeting these women by offering free services, strategic locations and market-specific ads showing young women of color seeking help.

Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law benefits CPCs

In 2012, Virginia passed a law requiring women to undergo a transabdominal ultrasound and wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion. Abortion providers must present all women seeking an abortion with a list of no-cost ultrasound providers. This means the Virginia Department of Health has been using state resources to refer women to crisis pregnancy centers.  The mandatory ultrasound law actually incorporates deceptive CPCs into the Virginia health system.

CPCs advertise to scared women who need help, and claim to offer objective guidance when they have a clear agenda.  We can all agree it’s wrong to shame someone seeking guidance. Anyone seeking healthcare services should receive sound, unbiased and all-encompassing information.  Women facing unintended pregnancy deserve no less.

*We’re always happy to present our report to new groups! If you’d like to set up a CPCs Exposed briefing or webinar for your group, please contact Nicole Grim at nicole@naralva.org.

3 weeks, 3 things

Three weeks from today could be a huge turning point for reproductive rights. Virginians in your neighborhood and across the Commonwealth will head to the polls – and we have a chance to elect a pro-choice majority to the state Senate for the first time in Virginia history!

But here’s the thing: pro-choice victories on Election Day are far from certain. Some of our most important races are coming down to the wire. Every pro-choice voter we can educate and motivate to get to the polls is going to be critical.

Here’s 3 ways you can take action now to make a difference during the final three weeks before Election Day:

  • Make sure you’re ready to vote! TODAY, October 13, is the last day to register or update your information in order to vote November 3 – don’t miss out on making your voice heard! Update or check your registration here. (Remind your friends and neighbors too!)

We still have a lot of work to do if we want to change the balance for reproductive rights in the General Assembly this year! Anti-choice candidates and the well-funded political groups that support them have proven time and again that they’ll stop at nothing to chip away at women’s health and rights. It’s up to us to stop them this year – and I’m so thankful we can count on you.

Let’s win in November!


The VA primary election is Tuesday, June 9th — don’t forget to vote pro-choice!

We don’t have to tell you how important Virginia elections are. 

As you read this, only 49 of Virginia’s 140 state legislators are 100% pro-choice — only 49! It may seem unbelievable, but that means that our pro-choice legislators are outnumbered by anti-choice politicians in Richmond by a ratio of almost three-to-one. This has to change…and it has to change now. If we are going to truly protect and defend reproductive rights in Virginia, we need to elect candidates that will stand up for women’s health!

That’s why NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia PAC is pleased to announce that the following primary candidates received 100% pro-choice scores on our 2015 candidate questionnaire! 

Senate District 10

Senate District 16:

  • Senator Rosalyn Dance (endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia PAC)
  • (Joe Preston did not complete our questionnaire)

sen dance endorsed

Senate District 29:


House District 45:


House District 63:


House District 69:

carr endorsed

House District 79:

  • Steve Heretick
  • (Del. Joannou did not complete our questionnaire, and has a mixed-choice record)


We are  confident that, if elected to the Virginia Senate, these candidates can be counted on to take a bold stand in support of reproductive freedom and access to health care. Make sure you’re ready to vote pro-choice on Tuesday, June 9th! 

A sweet farewell!

By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or nicole@naralva.org.

Well, folks, it’s time to say goodbye! As the time winds down and the workday concludes, I will be saying goodbye to my friends and colleagues at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and moving forward in the world with new experiences and a stronger voice in the fight for reproductive rights.

These last eight months as NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s Advocacy and Communications Intern have been nothing but wonderful! I have gained so much from this experience and am truly grateful for all of the lessons I have learned along the way.

From day one I have been amazed by the work of our volunteer base and have loved corresponding with activists and witnessing their sheer dedication to reproductive rights. They [NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia volunteers and activists] are proof that everyday citizens, like you and I, can make a difference in issues that affect us all. To me, that is remarkable!

There are many other takeaways that I will carry with me beyond our Old Towne, Alexandria office. I am thankful for the opportunities this internship has provided me and loved learning more about the inter-workings of a nonprofit, Virginia’s political climate, and the fight to protect choice.

What’s next on my agenda? I’m looking forward to spending the summer with my friends and family before heading to Mozambique to teach English with the Peace Corps. During my 27 months of Peace Corps service I plan to continue my involvement in women’s issues–hopefully working with local organizations to advance women’s health and betterment. Feel free to keep in contact and follow my adventures!

Cheers! :)

2015 Legislative Debriefing

By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or nicole@naralva.org.

On Wednesday, April 29th, pro-choice advocates, activists and allied lawmakers joined together in Arlington for our annual Legislative Review and Reception.

Hosted at the Arlington Central Library, the event allowed for lawmakers and constituents to mingle before a panel of five pro-choice legislators discussed the 2015 session and fielded questions from a packed room.

DSC_0332Senators Barbara Favola (D-31), Jennifer Wexton (D-33) and Janet Howell (D-32) joined Delegates Patrick Hope (D-47) and Charniele Herring (D-46) on our panel to discuss the pro-choice bills they fought for in 2015.

Senator Jennifer Wexton kicked off the panel discussion, detailing her failed attempt to repeal the 24-hour waiting period for women who seek abortion as well as her successful breastfeeding bill–which was signed into law in March.

Delegate Patrick Hope continued the conversation, detailing his attempt to pass the “Bad Bosses Bill.” Calling the bill “commonsense,” Hope explained his frustration with the failure of the bill and reiterated to the crowd that, “bosses have no place in your reproductive decisions.”

Delegate Hope went on to discuss his successful efforts to bring justice to the dozens of victims who were forcibly sterilized from the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s under the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act of 1924. Hope’s efforts lead to the creation of a $400,000 compensation package for victims.

After Delegate Hope concluded, our steadfast pro-choice champion Delegate Charniele Herring discussed the extreme 20-week abortion ban that was introduced in the House and what activists can do to prevent future legislation from passing. Calling the bill, “An example of poorly drafted legislation,” Delegate Herring predicted that such legislation should be expected in the future and, “We need to be prepared.”

Senator Janet Howell used her time to discuss attacks on the state budget and how she successfully defeated multiple anti-choice amendments. Before wrapping up, Senator Howell reminded us all about the importance elections have on the creation of budget conferees and the state budget in general.

DSC_0333Finally, Senator Barbara Favola concluded our panel discussion by reviewing this year’s failed anti-choice budget attacks and the need to overturn Virginia’s current ban on abortion insurance coverage for those in the healthcare exchange. Senator Favola went on to discuss the importance of contraceptive equity stating that, “Women should be able to choose and afford the birth control they need.”

After each panelist spoke, our guest lawmakers then fielded questions from the audience and offered advice on how to gear up for the fight ahead.

Thank you to all of the legislators, activists and allies who joined us for our 2015 Legislative Review and Reception. We cannot wait to work with you all in the future!

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Manassas City Council approves discriminatory zoning ordinance

By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or nicole@naralva.org.

On Monday, April 27th–in front of a packed room of pro-choice activists and advocates–the Manassas City Council voted to approve a new zoning ordinance that would restrict abortion clinics in Manassas.

Prior to the vote, pro-choice advocates delivered over 250 petitions to the Mayor and City Council, urging them to vote against the proposed zoning ordinances and stand up for Manassas women and families.

Unfortunately, their voices were not heard.

After a year of debate, failed recommendations and public comment, the council voted 3-4 in favor of changing the city’s zoning code–with current Mayor and Senate candidate Hal Parrish delivering the tie-breaking vote.

Lone Democrat, Ken Elston, and Republicans Mark Wolfe and Sheryl Bass (the council’s only woman) opposed the zoning measure.

Among other things, the new zoning code would require all medical care facilities, including abortion providers, to obtain a special use permit prior to opening their doors. This permit, however, would only be granted after a period of public comment and City Council approval–a requirement that could disproportionally affect abortion providers when up against an overwhelmingly Republican council.

Not only would these new zoning changes affect abortion clinics from moving into the area, but also they could threaten the survival of Manassas’s sole abortion clinic, Amethyst Health Center for Women.

If Amethyst were to relocate or make significant renovations to its existing location (a very probable situation given the current state of TRAP laws in Virginia), the 25-year-old business would need to apply for and persuade the City Council for a special use permit.

After Mayor Parrish delivered his final, anti-choice vote, dozens of activists politely rose, turned their backs to the council and left the meeting in unison to express their disappointment in the council’s vote. The walkout left the room nearly empty and showed the Mayor and City Council that we won’t stand with their discriminatory decision.

A final check-in with the University of Richmond

By Kristen Gell, Spring 2015 Choice Out Loud Campus Representative at the University of Richmond. Connect with Kristen and the Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ) crew on Facebook!

The month of April has been a busy end of the semester for SURJ!  We have been in the final stages of fundraising for the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project (RRFP) as a part of their annual Bowl-a-thon event.

RRFP is an all-volunteer, grassroots abortion fund whose mission is to further reproductive justice by providing practical and financial support for abortion services in Virginia and surrounding communities. They strive to be a resource in the community by engaging in grassroots advocacy for the full spectrum of reproductive rights.

We first learned about RRFP through the clinic defense our members periodically participate in. As an organization, SURJ is constantly looking for ways in which we can make a difference and get involved in the community.

Raising money for RRFP seemed like the perfect way to end the year!  In order to raise money, we decided to make vagina and penis chocolate pops to sell at UR.  We set up a booth in the commons with the pops, attractive flyers, and the usual NARAL swag. The pops were attention grabbing, to say the least. We thought it was important to include both penises and vaginas, since full reproductive justice benefits everyone, not just women!

In addition to funds raised from the pops, we also received private donations which will go towards our SURJ Bowl-a-thon fundraising efforts as well.  While we have yet to attend the event, our members are certainly looking forward to a great night filled with great people!

Besides fundraising for Bowl-a-thon, we also published our Kristen Zine 3 of the year.  This issue highlighted abortion clinics in the Richmond area as well as RRFP and Bowl-a-thon.  It was distributed the week before finals in the packed libraries and available to passersby as we sold pops!

All in all, my experience being a campus representative for NARAL Pro-Choice VA has been extremely rewarding.  As an organization, SURJ has been able to step beyond the campus scene and engage in the Richmond community through visits to the capitol, board of health meetings, clinic defense, and now Bowl-a-thon.  I’ve had the opportunity to make so many friends on campus and meet great activists in the Richmond area who I look forward to working with for years to come.

NARAL has provided both myself and SURJ with the tools to expand our organization and further our outreach, which I know all of our members are thankful for. Their aid has been invaluable and the UR campus community has benefited greatly this past year!