Senator Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk

Welcome back to our new, regular blog series, Virginia Political Pro(choice)files. In this segment, we highlight Virginia’s state politicians who support and fight for women’s reproductive rights while also drawing attention to politicians who are working to undermine the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion. To see how all General Assembly members stacked up in 2011, check out our Legislative Scorecard!

The Political Pro(choice)files: Senator Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk

As a representative for Norfolk in the Virginia General Assembly, Ralph Northam has been an ally of women and a great advocate for comprehensive sexual education throughout his four years in office. He was first elected in 2007 and will be running in a very competitive election this November.

Ralph Northam was one of three Virginia state senators involved in proposing legislation in 2010 to reign in the bad habits of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Northam, along with Senator Craig Deeds, Senator John Edwards, and Senator Dave Marsden, proposed a bill to regulate Virginia’s Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs)—regulations that would include a notice on the buildings stating that the facilities are not licensed, comprehensive healthcare centers. This bill went on to require that the facility include in the posted notice that it does not perform or refer women for abortions or contraception and that the facility is not required to adhere to confidentiality laws in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

As a pediatric neurologist, Northam knows that providing misleading and inaccurate medical information to women is dangerous and inappropriate. Women need to know that many CPCs have no obligation to respect their privacy.

Senator Northam, along with Delegates Charniele Herring and David Englin, participated in a press conference following the release of our research project exposing CPCs and showed nothing but support for women in need of accurate information in the midst of a difficult decision:

It is extremely important that these young women are able to seek medical advice that is in their best interest of their health … it’s important for women that seek advice from these centers to know what they offer and what they don’t offer and that’s exactly what this bill is intended to do. The bill, I think, will insure that expectant women will receive what I consider factual-based medical information and be able to make decisions that are in the best interest of their health.

The proposed bill also included a section prohibiting any CPC in violation of the prior regulations from receiving any funds derived from the Virginia Choose Life Fund license plates.

Although the bill was passed by indefinitely, it was successful in bringing some much needed attention to the issues surrounding CPCs.

In the last session of the General Assembly, Senator Northam also patroned SB 967, a bill that requires Virginia school districts to teach medically accurate and evidence-based programs that fall under the guidelines of Family Life Education. Although this bill passed in the Senate, it was unfortunately “left to die” in the House Committee on Education.

Clearly, Northam has shown that he is a strong supporter of women’s rights and his medical background gives him a solid perspective in regards to bills that involve women’s health.

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