Last chance to stand up against McDonnell’s abortion coverage ban before April 3 vote

StopAbortionBanSmallNow is the time to tell the General Assembly: coverage for abortion is a basic part of comprehensive reproductive health care, and Governor McDonnell shouldn’t get to block even more Virginians from access to this coverage to suit his anti-choice agenda.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene to vote on all of Governor Bob McDonnell’s vetos and amendments for this session — including his amendments to prohibit any plan being sold in the new health benefits exchange from including coverage for abortion care. The vote could come down to just one or two votes in the state Senate, which means your lawmakers need to hear from you today against this insidious attack on health care and abortion access for tens of thousands of Virginians.

Send an email to your Senator through our website here or find their contact information here to call or email their office directly.

The new health benefits exchanges, created under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), are designed to be a marketplace where consumers and small businesses can compare private insurance plans and purchase one that works for them.  The aim is to give people who are uninsured or under-insured now a straightforward way to find and access affordable, comprehensive insurance plans.  That’s why it’s so egregious that the governor is undermining this goal by seeking to ban Virginians participating in the exchange from buying truly comprehensive plans that are currently available on the private market.

Coverage for abortion care is an essential part of comprehensive health insurance. Just like coverage for birth control, prenatal care, and maternity care, insurance coverage for abortion gives a woman the ability to make the reproductive decisions that are best for her health, her life, and her family. Insurance companies recognize that — it’s why the majority of private insurance plans in the U.S. market today include abortion coverage. Paying for abortion care out-of-pocket can be prohibitively expensive for many families. This is especially true of more complicated procedures, such as when a woman’s health is at risk or later in pregnancy when the fetus has been diagnosed with severe anomalies — both situations in which McDonnell’s amendment would prohibit Virginians from having coverage through their insurance!

Gov. McDonnell and his anti-choice allies are trying to downplay this amendment. They’re falsely claiming that it’s just about preserving their anti-choice status quo of prohibiting public money from paying for abortion care. In reality, this amendment would go beyond the current standard and affect even Virginians who are using their own funds to pay for the premiums on private health insurance.

The fact is that people who use government subsidies to purchase health insurance through the exchange — just like state employees and Virginians on Medicaid — will unfortunately already be prohibited from having their insurance cover abortion under the federal Affordable Care Act law.  But not all states have not extended this abortion coverage ban to people who will be purchasing health insurance with their own funds through the exchange, as Governor McDonnell wants to do. For instance, just last month Minnesota passed its health exchange legislation without such a ban.

That’s why it’s especially important that your lawmakers hear the facts about what the governor’s abortion coverage amendment would do. They need to know that their constituents like you believe all Virginians deserve the ability to purchase affordable comprehensive health insurance that includes abortion coverage.

by Caroline O’Shea, Deputy Director

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has its facts wrong. Get the truth!

By Alena Yarmosky, Advocacy and Communications Manager

This is outrageous.

On Friday morning, the Richmond Times Dispatch published an unbelievable and stunningly inaccurate editorial on Governor McDonnell’s recently introduced abortion ban amendment. The editorial recycled Governor McDonnell’s false claims of “taxpayer funded abortion” and completely misrepresented the truth of the matter, all while ignoring the broad and unprecedented impact this ban will have on the health of thousands of Virginia’s women and families. Because it is obvious that that the RTD has been reading anti-choice talking points (and missing the facts), we’re here to set the record straight.

Their take: “[NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia]  says McDonnell’s amendment would block women from purchasing comprehensive health care ‘with their own private dollars. Not so.”

Our take: Um… yes so. If Governor McDonnell’s amendment is enacted, it will prevent thousands of Virginian women from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money.  Here’s how it works:

Virginia law and the Affordable Care Act already ban state-funded coverage for abortion, except in rare & life-threatening instances.

  1. Virginia law already prohibits state- funded health insurance coverage for elective abortions except in cases of rape/incest, fetal abnormality, or when a woman’s life is in jeopardy.
  2. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, does not require any state (including Virginia) to change its current bans on abortion coverage for women who participate in the exchange.
  3. Even if Virginia didn’t already have these bans, the ACA explicitly prohibits any federal funds from being used to pay for abortion coverage in exchanges – with limited exceptions for cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. To recap, that’s two concrete bans on public funding for abortion: one in Virginia law, and one explicitly outlined under the Affordable Care Act. No public money can or will be used to fund abortions within the new exchanges – period.

Government subsidies (which some Virginians will use to pay for health care through the ACA exchange) are already restricted from paying for abortion (except in the above – rare – instances). 

  1. The ACA requires insurers to keep private dollars completely separate form all federal funds, including federal subsidies. So, imagine that a Virginia woman is receiving government subsidies to help pay for healthcare through the Virginia exchange. If she decides to purchase coverage for abortion care (currently offered in the vast majority of plans), insurers are strictly prohibited from using government subsidies to do so.
  2. What’s more, the private funding used pay for abortion coverage must be kept strictly separate from all government funding. It’s 100% clear: No government money (including government subsidies) can go towards abortion coverage.

Gov. McDonnell’s amendment would ban all insurance companies – even separate policy riders – from providing plans that cover abortion. But we already know that state-funded healthcare cannot cover abortion, and no taxpayer money can go towards abortion coverage within the ACA exchange. What then, does Gov. McDonnell’s amendment actually do? That’s right…block women from purchasing comprehensive health care with private dollars.

It’s obvious, RTD:  This amendment is not about taxpayer funding for abortion.  Current law is clear, and  sadly public funding of abortion care is already forbidden, except in very narrow circumstances. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia believes abortion is basic health care and deserves coverage—both public and private.  But let’s be clear, public funding for abortion is not the issue here!  Instead, this amendment goes far beyond existing law, and imposes unprecedented limitations on private insurance coverage in our state that will block women in our state from getting care they need.

That’s why we’re fighting back. And with all of the myths and misrepresentations flying around, it’s extra important that your Senator understands exactly what Governor McDonnell’s abortion ban does – and what it means for the women of Virginia. Contact your Senator right now and tell him/her to reject McDonnell’s anti-choice amendment!

Together, we’ll set the record straight.

Governor McDonnell moves to ban insurance coverage for abortion in Virginia (Take Action Now!)

by Caroline O’Shea, deputy directorNo Better Health Care for You, Virginia Women

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.

Contact your state Senator now and urge them to oppose Governor McDonnell’s abortion coverage ban.

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! Continue reading

The War Against Women: Coming to a Town Near You

By Brooke

Yesterday, Amanda Iacone of Virginia Statehouse News published an article documenting the war on women that is occurring locally as well as on a national level.

Several states have pursued “copycat” legislation with the overall goal of limiting women’s access to reproductive healthcare. (Copycat laws are just that – laws passed in one state to further restrict women’s health that another state copies.)

Virginia is no exception.

Banning abortion coverage through private insurance exchanges is just one example of such legislation across the country and in Virginia.

Virginia women have also been subjected to TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) laws that passed in the last session of the General Assembly; a type of legislation that Virginia Statehouse News calls “one of the most common methods lawmakers use to curb the number of abortions by limiting women’s access or shutting down the providers.”

President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Nancy Keenan, was featured in the article, calling out politicians who came into office with big promises of job creation and economic relief, but have thus far only delivered attacks on women’s rights. Keenan stated: “In (the) next 18 months, I think you’re going to see a backlash of the public. First they thought this was about jobs and the economy — it really has been more about outlawing abortion care in this country.”

The fear for Virginia women and families now lies in the potential for other copycat legislation. Virginia’s anti-choice elected officials put Virginia at risk of anti-choice legislation that has been seen in other areas of the country such as the defunding of Planned Parenthood, requirements that women wait up to 72 hours before abortions, or even criminalization of doctors who perform abortions.

To see the damage that has been done by anti-choice officials in the General Assembly and Governor McDonnell’s administration regarding this war against women, check out our “The McDonnell Administration’s War on Women’s Health: By the Numbers” video. Don’t forget to see how you state legislator stacks up on women’s health issues by reviewing our 2011 Legislative Scorecard.

Summer Intern Series Part 2: Sex & Politics in the Capital City

By Brooke

This summer, Advocates for Youth, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, Choice USA and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS), along with partner organizations are holding a series of lunchtime talks for DC-area interns working for organizations with similar goals.

In yesterday’s third segment of Sex & Politics in theCapitalCity, the topic was “Understanding the Attacks on Federally Funded Programs: Discussion on Title X, Medicaid and the Role of Organizations.”

A principal theme of this week’s talk was that there is a national war occurring against women and, more specifically, minority women. The luncheon was led by a panel with representatives from the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, the National Health Law Program, and the DC Abortion Fund.

A lot of our discussion centered on the topic of reproductive healthcare for poverty-stricken minority groups. There was a clear focus on the impact that funding cuts to Title X and Medicaid specifically will have on women’s reproductive health and the perpetuation of poverty amongst minorities.

Because 60 percent of people receiving Medicaid are minorities, these funding cuts are affecting minorities the most. Movements to defund Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers are also affecting minority women disproportionately because minority women are more likely to use a publically funded facility.

A great point made about these funding cuts to healthcare services is that they have been specifically focused on reproductive healthcare, creating segregation between general healthcare and reproductive healthcare. The problem? Reproductive healthcare is healthcare!

What I really took away from this presentation was how much influence politicians have on our rights. If this worries you too, help us support pro-choice candidates who have women’s reproductive rights in mind.

Virginia Becoming More Hostile Toward Women’s Health

By Sara Cardelle

There is currently a National War on Women in the United States regarding reproductive rights. The attacks on women’s health care access range from attempts to defund Planned Parenthood (on Wednesday, Indiana became the first state to succeed) to requirements that pregnant women undergo an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion. In total, there have been 916 state bills related to reproductive rights issues proposed throughout the country this year alone. Unfortunately, the war on women has been equally successful in the state of Virginia. We saw a total of 10 bills or amendments restricting reproductive health care proposed during the 2011 General Assembly. Three of the bills and amendments are now law and could have a devastating impact on women’s health and access to care in Virginia. At NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s Choice Legislative Debriefing, Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, stated, “We have essentially overturned a lot of case laws since Roe v. Wade, making Virginia one of the less desirable states in terms of women’s reproductive rights and I think it’s just outrageous.”

Delegate Hope’s statement certainly rings true as we review NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s 2011 Legislative Scorecard.

In comparing this year to last year’s results, there is evidence of a push to more anti-choice partisanship. The number of Virginia legislators earning a zero percent pro-choice rating from has nearly doubled from 2010 to 2011. Last year, 36 delegates and nine senators earned a zero percent pro-choice rating. In 2011, the number of Delegates earning a zero percent pro-choice rating went up to 60. This means that, this year, 60 percent of the House of Delegates voted in favor of any and all bills and amendments attacking reproductive rights.

The number of Senators with a zero percent pro-choice rating increased to 15 which, like the House of Delegates, nearly doubles that of last year. There was also a decrease in 100 percent pro-choice senators (from 22 in 2010 to only 19 in 2011). This means there is no pro-choice majority in the Senate. This small but crucial change came into play often during the session, as we saw three bills or amendments restricting reproductive choice pass by only one vote in the Senate.

During the legislative debriefing, Senator George Barker, D-Fairfax, discussed this issue stating, “The pressure on [moderate legislators] is extraordinary right now, from all kinds of groups out there. And the fear they have is if they take a vote that is not an anti-choice vote, on any single issue, [these groups] will automatically guarantee that they have a primary challenge and in most instances will guarantee that they lose that primary challenge.”

This past session reminds us how important it is to make sure Virginians elect pro-choice candidates in the state legislature and especially in the executive branch. Of the three new anti-choice laws on the books, two were amendments from the governor. Governor McDonnell’s amendments include banning private abortion coverage for all women participating in the new health care insurance exchange, and prohibiting private insurance companies from offering coverage on abortions. The other amendment restores nearly $900,000 in funding for failed, abstinence-only programs. In addition to these two amendments (which are now law after passing the state Senate by only one vote), the governor will also have the final say on new, unwarranted regulations singling out first-trimester abortion providers.

This has been a hard year for reproductive rights in the state of Virginia and across the country. However, there is an opportunity for Virginia citizens to take our state back and that involves us coming out to vote this year on November 8th when all 140 General Assembly seats are up for grabs. The legislative scorecard gives you a chance to see if your legislator is pro-choice or not. I will certainly be taking that information with me into November, and I hope you will as well.

Gov. McDonnell Continues Attempt to Erode Women’s Health Care

This week, we have seen just how far Governor McDonnell is willing to go on his single-minded, ideological mission to further erode women’s access to necessary health care.

The governor quietly signed a bill into law requiring new, unwarranted regulations on abortion providers into law this past weekend with no notice or media attention. So now, the “emergency regulatory” process begins—a process which severely curtails public comment. But, the governor was not quite finished with his attempt to undercut women’s health.

At the very last minute possible, the governor recommended an amendment to another bill that has nothing to do with abortion. HB 2434 simply established the state’s health benefits exchange as a result of federal health care reform. McDonnell seized the opportunity to further his crusade against women’s health and safety.

Governor McDonnell’s amendment bans abortion coverage for all women participating in the new health care insurance exchange. This is dangerous for women. No woman ever plans on having an abortion. But, pregnancy can be extremely precarious and women need the assurance of health coverage especially in those tragic situations. A woman should have the option whether to include abortion coverage in her health plan without government interference.

Furthermore, the amendment prohibits women from using their own private dollars to purchase abortion coverage. It also prohibits private insurance companies from offering coverage! This flies in the face of the governor’s own conservative principles—free markets, limited government and individual rights and liberty. Not to mention, privacy!

We saw just what can happen with a mixed-choice Senate with the recent tie vote on new abortion regulations (broken by anti-choice Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling). We have to tell our senators NOW to vote against the Governor’s amendment on HB 2434 and protect women’s ability to choose what their health insurance covers!

Let’s be clear, the governor and his allies are pursuing a political agenda that will severely limit access to vital reproductive health care for women of the Commonwealth.

We cannot allow this to happen!

The House and Senate will vote on this amendment next Wednesday. Please help by contacting your senator today and ask them to reject the Governor’s amendment to HB 2434 and protect women’s health and safety!

This week, we have seen just how far GoGovernor McDonnell is willing to go on his single-minded, ideological mission to further erode women’s access to necessary health care.

 

The governor quietly signed a bill into law requiring new, unwarranted regulations on abortion providers into law this past weekend with no notice or media attention. So now, the “emergency regulatory” process begins—a process which severely curtails public comment. But, the governor was not quite finished with his attempt to undercut women’s health.

 

At the very last minute possible, the governor recommended an amendment to another bill that has nothing to do with abortion.HB 2434simply established the state’s health benefits exchange as a result of federal health care reform. McDonnell seized the opportunity to further his crusade against women’s health and safety.

 

Governor McDonnell’s amendmentbans abortion coverage for all women participating in the new health care insurance exchange.This is dangerous for women. No woman ever plans on having an abortion. But, pregnancy can be extremely precarious and women need the assurance of health coverage especially in those tragic situations. A woman should have the option whether to include abortion coverage in her health plan without government interference.

 

Furthermore, the amendment prohibits women from using their own private dollars to purchase abortion coverage. It also prohibits private insurance companies from offering coverage! This flies in the face of conservative principles – free markets, limited government and individual rights and liberty. Not to mention, privacy!

 

We saw just what can happen with a mixed-choice Senate with the recent tie vote on new abortion regulations (broken by anti-choice Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling). We have to tell our senators NOW to vote against the Governor’s amendment on HB 2434 and protect women’s ability to choose what their health insurance covers!

 

Let’s be clear, the governor and his allies are pursuing a political agenda that will severely limit access to vital reproductive health care for women of the Commonwealth.

We cannot allow this to happen!

 

The House and Senate will vote on this amendment next Wednesday. Please help by contacting your senator today and ask them to reject the Governor’s amendment to HB 2434 and protect women’s health and safety!

 

 

 

 

Choice News Updates

Here are a couple of choice stories from last week!

Liberty University’s Health Care Lawsuit Is Dismissed

Last Tuesday a federal judge dismissed Liberty University’s lawsuit against the government over the new health care law. The university claimed that the law violated its religious rights because some of the money collected for insurance could be used for abortion, which the Christian school opposes.

This, however, is untrue. In fact, while the health care debate was occurring earlier this year, the White house issued an executive order clearly stating no federal funds would be used for elective abortion services under the health care legislation. Judge Norman K. Moon reminded Liberty University of this fact.

Liberty University’s claim of an “abortion mandate” has been a favorite tactic of anti-choice groups and opponents of health care reform. Judge Moon wrote in his decision that the law “contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used for abortion services beyond those in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered.”

Anti-choice organizations and leaders have often muddied the waters by making misleading claims that the health care bill mandates abortion coverage. We will continue to educate the public, in the hope that truth will trump misinformation.

Trust Women, Respect Choice Plates Now Available!

They're Here!

In a recent blog post, we updated you on the status of Virginia’s Trust Women, Respect Choice license plates. At that time, the more than 350 people who pre-ordered the plates were beginning to receive them in the mail. Well, the plates are now officially available for general purchase through the DMV!

If you’ll recall, earlier this year the plate had to go through several hurdles. First, Delegate Gilbert attempted to divert funds raised from the plate to the Pregnant Woman Support Fund, an empty and unused government fund. Fortunately, his amendment was defeated. Then, Governor McDonnell continued to show his anti-choice colors by amending the bill to make sure no proceeds from the plate would go to abortion services even though Planned Parenthood had already made that fact clear. With the hard work of our dedicated activists and supporters (and the threat of a discrimination lawsuit), the license plate bill passed!

Because it is a revenue-sharing plate, after 1000 are sold, $15 of every $25 plate fee will go to the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and be used to provide essential, preventative women’s health services such as contraception, pap smears, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. That means, the more we have on the roads the more we help low-income women access family planning care through Planned Parenthood.

So, show off the fact that Virginia really is Pro-Choice! Order yours today!

[Thanks to our intern Emily for her work on this post.]