Governor McDonnell’s Behind-the-Scenes Abortion Ban

Last year, Governor McDonnell faced statewide and national outrage (not to mention ridicule and mockery from the unforgiving world of late-night television) after pushing egregious legislative attacks on the women of Virginia. You would think that after the barrage of media scrutiny and an outpouring of fury from Virginian women, McDonnell might have learned some sort of lesson. Maybe, just maybe, we thought, he would start to trust women to make our own decisions about our bodies, our health, and our lives. Apparently not.

According to the Virginian Pilot, Governor McDonnell is quietly planning a last-minute maneuver to severely restrict Virginian women’s access to health care. How? By attaching anti-choice amendments to H.B.1900 and S.B.921, legislation to implement the Virginia health insurance exchange as set out under the Affordable Care Act.

As part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) all states must construct and/or participate in a health insurance exchange.  This exchange is intended to function as a virtual marketplace, where small businesses and individuals will be able to shop for appropriate and affordable health care. Like all other states, Virginia was given the option to create our own exchange or operate under the federally-run program. Governor McDonnell chose the federal option – with a few exceptions.

According to a letter sent from McDonnell to DC officials yesterday, Virginia will participate in the federal exchange, BUT will maintain decision-making authority over which health care plans are able to participate. As he explains, Virginia state government will continue to have oversight of “whether a health plan or issuer meets particular certification standards”. And his first rule? You guessed it…no coverage for women’s health.

If enacted, McDonnell’s planned amendment would prohibit insurance providers from offering policies in the exchange that cover abortion – coverage that currently exists in almost 90% of plans sold in the private market. In other words, McDonnell’s amendment would make it difficult to impossible for small businesses and individual Virginian women to purchase abortion coverage with private dollars. Instead of improved access to health care (as intended by the Affordable Care Act) many women would see their coverage slashed.

Let’s be clear – this amendment has nothing to do with eliminating public funding for abortion. Obama’s Affordable Care Act already has strict provisions to ensure that no public funds are spent on abortion, and Virginia law already prohibits public funding for abortion except in rare and life-threatening cases. Instead, Governor McDonnell’s amendment would restrict Virginians from purchasing a comprehensive insurance policy with their own private dollars. This is not a matter of government funding, but rather a question of private money – and how the women of Virginia can spend it.

my body my money my choice

We here at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia believe firmly that a woman who decides to have an abortion has the same rights as any other patient seeking any other outpatient procedure. Like every other Virginian, she deserves equal access to the health care she needs.

Furthermore, we know that banning insurance coverage does not reduce the need for abortions; it only creates dangerous outcomes for Virginia women, some of whom may be facing complex and risky pregnancies. While no woman plans on having an abortion,  it is important that she can count on her insurance to cover a full range of health care options. Every Virginian –  every woman –  deserves the ability to make his or her own private medical decisions without interference from the government.

That’s why we are calling on the women of Virginia (and the men who love them) to flood Governor McDonnell’s office with emails and phone calls in opposition to this dangerous amendment. It’s easy to take a stand – simply click here, personalize your message to Governor McDonnell, and enter your name in the box. Then tell your friends, your family members, and your social media contacts (we know you’ve got them) to do the same!

Although this amendment is a clear and outrageous attack on women’s health, Governor McDonnell knows that most Virginians don’t pay attention to every bill that goes through the General Assembly – let alone every amendment. He is counting on this lack of knowledge, which is exactly why we need to expose how dangerous, underhanded, and restrictive this amendment is. Please join NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia in taking action now. Together, we will tell Governor McDonnell: Our body, our money, our choice!

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