Last week, we saw that, according to a George Mason University Mercatus Center study entitled, “Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom,” Virginia is the ninth overall freest state in the nation. Furthermore, it is the fifth in economic freedom and 22nd in personal freedom.
In the article, “Virginia ranked 9th in overall freedom,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch states that, “policies were weighted on how much they matter to those affected, and how many people they affect.” But how did the study judge who was affected? According to Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, the list of “those affected” did not encompass all Virginians. Willis says, “freedom is only meaningful if it applies equally to all, and that’s where Virginia falls short.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia believes there are still many Virginians, especially Virginia women, who are continually experiencing restricted freedom. Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bolling, Attorney General Cuccinelli, and a majority of state legislators are completely anti-choice. Having a choice equates to having freedom; therefore, it makes sense that Virginia is only 22nd in personal freedom. Governor McDonnell’s administration and their legislative allies have successfully passed numerous laws that prohibit a women’s freedom to full healthcare access.
In the 2010 legislative session, Virginia prohibited public funding for abortion for those women who are eligible for state medical assistance, except if the woman’s life is in danger or in the case of rape or incest. The 2011 session also provided an abundance of proposed anti-choice legislation. Two bills would have limited private insurance plans from providing abortion coverage (with the governor adding a last-minute amendment banning such coverage). Three separate bills would have given constitutional rights to a fetus at all stages of development. Additionally, one proposed bill would have meddled in the doctor-patient relationship by requiring that a pregnant female receive an ultrasound before she has an abortion.
Anti-choice lawmakers also singled out women’s healthcare for new restrictions.
On July 1st, a bill passed through political maneuvering officially became law. This Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law states that if a facility performs more than five first-trimester abortions a month it is now considered a hospital. Such regulations are politically-motivated and aim to restrict the freedom of women to comprehensive, reproductive health care.
An opinion piece in The Daily Progress entitled, “Freedom is in the eye of the beholder,” further discussed Virginia’s ranking and highlighted a specific quote from the authors of the study: “In our [the authors of the study] view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and properties as they see fit, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.”
Out-of-touch Virginia elected officials continue to infringe on a woman’s right to choose complete, affordable healthcare. Thus, Virginia’s high ranking once again does not extend to Virginia women.
Though people and elected officials may have different ideals about what constitutes freedom, there is no denying that an increase in government regulation reduces an individual’s liberty.
With anti-choice politicians, the freedom of Virginia women is constantly in jeopardy.