If you’d hoped that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell might be slowing down on his anti-choice agenda in his final year in office — and after all the outrage we’ve seen over attacks he has pushed like the mandatory ultrasound law and targeted regulations on abortion providers — think again.
As we anticipated following reports last month, Governor McDonnell waited until the last possible minute in this year’s legislative calendar to push yet another of his attacks on reproductive rights and health care. Late last night, he introduced amendments on Virginia’s health benefits exchange implementation bills that will ban any insurance plan being sold through the new exchange from including coverage for abortion care. It’s another in a long line of anti-choice policies designed to block women from accessing affordable safe abortion care and to undermine the promise of improved comprehensive health care coverage for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act.
If the General Assembly approves these amendments to HB1900/SB921 (see the amendment text here), Gov. McDonnell’s abortion coverage ban would block the thousands of Virginians who will be purchasing insurance plans through the exchange from choosing to buy private plans that include abortion coverage — a basic benefit currently included in the vast majority of private insurance plans in the U.S. market. It will even prohibit them from buying a separate policy rider to cover abortion! By banning women from even using their own funds to purchase private insurance plans that include this one common benefit, Gov. McDonnell would restrict Virginians’ personal economic decisions as well as their access to affordable comprehensive health care. McDonnell’s ban puts the health and well-being of thousands of Virginia women needlessly at risk by making it harder to access safe abortion, even in cases when continuing a pregnancy could be dangerous to a woman’s health or when she’s facing a diagnosis of severe fetal anomaly.
Like Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s ongoing crusade against insurance coverage for affordable contraception under the Affordable Care Act (a fight he infamously deemed worthy of going to jail over), Governor McDonnell’s amendment would restrict private economic interactions and slash coverage in order to advance an extreme anti-abortion, anti-birth control agenda.
Without meaningful access to safe, legal abortion care, the right to choose abortion is a right in-name-only. For women without health insurance coverage for abortion, paying for the procedure out-of-pocket is often a financial hardship that affects them and their families, or even makes accessing a safe abortion prohibitively expensive altogether. Anti-choice politicians across the country know that very well — it’s why they continue to launch attacks on health care coverage for abortion care.
State employees, Medicaid recipients and other Virginians who get their health insurance through the government already have their coverage for abortion care unfairly restricted – but that’s not enough for Governor McDonnell. He wants to extend this intrusion into the lives of women with private insurance as well and chip away at standard coverage for abortion throughout the insurance market.
You can help NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia fight this abortion coverage ban. The General Assembly will reconvene next week on April 3rd to consider all of Governor McDonnell’s amendments on legislation passed earlier this year. We need to fight back and make sure lawmakers know that pro-choice Virginians won’t stand for this latest attack on women’s health and rights. Contact your state Senator today and ask them to vote against the governor’s amendments on HB 1900 and SB 921. Then encourage your friends in Virginia to do the same!