By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, legislators in Richmond debated several choice-related bills that, if passed, would have a direct effect on Virginia women and families. The NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia team was on the ground in Richmond hearing arguments, lobbying legislators & testifying on critical bills – and we’re here to give you a full recap!
In case you missed it, here’s what happened last week:
In the Virginia Senate
On Thursday, January 29th, three of our pro-choice champions were present at the Senate Education & Health committee hearing to introduce three important bills that would roll back the dangerous anti-choice policies of recent years. The room was filled with pro-choice activists & supporters who gave moving testimony & urged committee members to vote in support of women’s health & rights.
First, Senator Donald McEachin presented his bill SB 769, to repeal the current ban on insurance coverage for abortion within Virginia’s health care exchange. Arona Kessler is a Virginia women who gets her health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and she explained the importance of having coverage for abortion included in her health care plan.
Unfortunately, the bill was defeated 7-8 (a party line vote) in committee. Thank you to Senator Saslaw, Senator Lucas, Senator Howell, Senator Locke, Senator Barker, Senator Petersen, and Senator Lewis for standing up for Virginia women and voting in favor of SB 769!
Senator Mamie Locke then presented SB 733, a bill to overturn Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound requirement. We were proud to have several pro-choice activists present to speak in support of this bill, including Kristen, a University of Richmond student and Joana, a mother and veteran.
As many of our supporters explained, requiring a woman to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion is a medically unnecessary political move intended to interfere with and shame a woman personal decision. Despite moving testimony, the bill also was also defeated by a 7-8 vote.
The final defeat of the day came in the version of SB 920–legislation designed to remove the 24-hour mandatory waiting period prior to abortion. As the bill’s sponsor Senator Jennifer Wexton and other supporters of the bill explained, the current law requires women to make multiple trips to their heath care provider before accessing a safe, legal abortion, which can be difficult for low-income women or women living in rural areas of the state. Unfortunately, this commonsense bill was also defeated. But we send huge thanks to Sen. Wexton, our activists & all those who supported this important pro-choice legislation!
In the Virginia House
On Friday, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our activists were once again at the Capitol to urge legislators to vote in support of critical pro-choice bills – this time the House Courts of Justice Constitutional Law Subcommittee convened. Once again, our amazing supporters volunteered their time to read testimony and ask for support – but once again, anti-choice legislators prevailed.
Delegate Jeion Ward presented her bill, a House version of legislation to repeal Virginia’s burdensome and medically-unnecessary mandatory ultrasound requirement. Like Senator Locke’s legislation, HB 1524 would remove the requirement that a woman undergo a mandatory ultrasound prior to having an abortion. Unfortunately, like Locke’s legislation, Delegate Ward’s bill was also defeated.
Next to be defeated was HB 2287–legislation introduced by Delegate Patrick Hope that would prohibit an employer from taking adverse action against the reproductive health decisions of an employee. After introducing his bill, the Delegate explained, “Your health care is none of your boss’s business and this bill says loud-and-clear — that employers may not discriminate or take adverse actions against their female employees.” Despite his efforts and the testimony from our volunteers, his bill was defeated on party lines.
Finally, Delegate Vivian Watts introduced legislation (HB 1541) that would define birth control to mean “contraceptive methods that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration” and is not considered as a means of abortion. Under delegate Watt’s bill, all FDA-approved methods of contraception, including the highly debated emergency contraception, would be defined in the Virginia Code as “birth control” and not “abortion.” A final 4-4 vote failed to report the bill out of the House Courts of Justice Constitutional Law Subcommittee.
While we are greatly disappointed with the majority of last week’s outcomes, our volunteers and activists showed amazing support and our resilient performance left an impact on General Assembly.
The fight for reproductive rights continues this Friday, as we will fill the House subcommittee meeting room to read testimony against the dangerous 20-week abortion ban (HB 2321). Help support Virginia women and urge your lawmakers to vote against HB 2321!