Looking back on the elections and looking ahead

By NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia guest blogger Laura

It’s been a roller coaster of an election season and it’s not even 2012.

Last Tuesday’s election wasn’t a defeat for pro-choice policy. But the results put Virginia women’s healthcare in a perilous position and mean we can’t rest.

The state’s GOP – which already controls the House – gained enough seats to create a 20-20 split in the Senate, with the anti-choice lieutenant governor breaking ties, leaving the state without a reliable pro-choice majority. Still, the results kept the GOP from winning an outright majority, which polls predicted was likely.

And there were certainly successes locally and nationally. A significant number of Virginia’s pro-choice candidates were elected and re-elected. Over in Mississippi, more than 55 percent of voters rejected the personhood amendment that would have made abortion illegal by defining a fetus as a person from the moment of conception. The measure didn’t allow abortions in cases of rape and incest and to protect the life of the mother – and would have banned certain forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization.

On the one hand, I’m thrilled with these successes. But we also lost the dedicated pro-choice vote of Senator Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania, who chaired the Senate Committee on Education and Health, where all choice-related bills go. Losing the dedicated leadership of Senator Houck and the 20-20 split means Virginia’s women could be facing even more attacks on our right to safe, legal abortion and preventative care in the 2012 General Assembly session. It will now be far easier for anti-choice lawmakers to push through restrictions such as the unnecessary and politically-motivated regulations on first-trimester abortion providers we saw earlier this year. These restrictions could force a number of women’s health centers to close, leaving many women – especially those in more rural areas – without ready access to abortion services, as well as other critical needs, such as birth control and preventative care.

The elections are over, but our work isn’t. What happens in other states can easily influence Virginia and these attacks impact all of us. Supporters of the personhood effort have said that, despite the Mississippi results, they’re not backing down and will push similar dangerous measures in Florida, Montana, Oregon, Ohio and others. And in Virginia and elsewhere, there is still a sizable contingent of anti-choice supporters pushing to defund Planned Parenthood and find smaller, easier ways to restrict abortion access in several states, including insurance coverage restrictions, ultrasounds and waiting-period requirements.

What can we do? Don’t get complacent. You can do several things over the coming months to fight for reproductive rights.

Every bit helps when the opposition uses tactics big and small to chip away at our rights.

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