Victory against “Personhood”…but the fight goes on!

Ladies and gentleman,

We have a victory on our hands! And I’m not just talking about the election — although obviously, WE ARE PUMPED. But even considering the recent reelection of pro-choice President Obama (and of course the fact that Virginia  stayed blue), this victory is still pretty huge.

Let’s start with some background. During the 2012 General Assembly session, notorious anti-choice Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) introduced H.B. 1, a bill to state that life begins at conception – and grant “personhood” status to fertilized eggs. Unsurprisingly, H.B. 1 (also known as “personhood”)  was an incredibly dangerous threat to the health and rights of Virginia women.

If passed, H.B. 1 would lay the legal groundwork to ban abortion without exception – even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the woman.  Even more extreme, “personhood”  could ban most common and FDA-approved forms of birth control, and would even outlaw some infertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization.  Ultimately “personhood” would force doctors to put the well-being of a fetus before the life and health of a living, breathing, thinking woman – even in cases of severe pregnancy complications. Considering the recent and tragic death of Savita Halappanavar,  who died after being denied access to life-saving  abortion care, it’s obvious how scary this is.
In February of this year, the Virginia House of Delegates passed H.B. 1 by a vote of 66-32 (also terrifying). But thankfully, after thousands of pro-choice Virginians rallied against “personhood”, the Senate decided to “continue” H.B. 1 to the 2013 legislative session. It was a great day for women’s rights in Virginia…but we knew we couldn’t get too comfortable. After all H.B. 1 was – and still is – technically alive.
Sen. Steve Martin, Chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, has until this Thursday, November 29, to hold a hearing on H.B.1. If the hearing is held and the bill voted out of committee, “personhood” legislation will move to the full Senate for a vote – and the women of Virginia will  be one step closer to losing critical reproductive rights. Another scary prospect…and one we definitely did NOT want to see happen in Virginia.

So last week, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia asked our supporters and allies to write a message to state Sen. Martin telling him to pull “personhood” from the 2013 agenda. Our response was overwhelming -  over 720 pro-choice Virginians took a break from their holiday and told Sen. Martin to stop with the crazy attacks on women’s health and keep H.B. 1 off of the table for good.

Now for that victory part: IT WORKED! After receiving more than 700 emails from angry Virginians, Sen. Martin had apparently had enough. Thanks to you, he will not hear the bill before Thursday’s deadline – and H.B. 1 will officially die.

We know we have a lot more work to do. Del. Bob Marshall has already introduced some extreme anti-choice bills for the 2013 session, and he is likely to re-introduce “personhood” as well. But today we are happy, relieved, and so proud of everyone who helped us win this important victory. With 2013 around the corner, let’s keep it up: 

Virginia Women Trapped by Board of Health Decision

Hi Everyone:

My name is Alena Yarmosky and I am the new Advocacy & Communications Manager with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.  I joined the NARAL VA team two weeks ago, and have loved getting to know all of our amazing volunteers and supporters. I look forward to working with you all in the coming weeks and months!

Unfortunately, it has been a tough few days for us here at NARAL Pro-Choice VA, and for women all over the state. At the Virginia Board of Health meeting last Friday (September 14) the Board of Health voted to subject existing women’s health centers to burdensome and medically-unnecessary TRAP regulations.

These proposed construction requirements (now approved by the Board) have nothing to do with protecting women’s health and safety, and are instead designed to force health centers across the state to close. Renovations to meet TRAP regulations could cost millions of dollars, and are simply not an option for many of Virginia’s health centers. If signed into law, TRAP regulations could force over 15 clinics to shut their doors, and keep thousands of Virginia women from accessing essential medical care.

We have activist Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to blame. Cuccinelli has done everything in his power (and many things beyond his legal and constitutional authority) to bully the Board into reversing its June decision and imposing restrictive TRAP regulations. Five Board of Health members caved to his pressure tactics and switched their votes, with a total of 13 out of  15 members voting to put Cuccienlli’s political agenda before medical fact (Jim Edmonson and Dr. Anna Jeng were the only two who stood strong).

Even worse, Friday’s Board meeting was a blatant denial of public comment and the democratic process. Time for public input was slashed in half, and hundreds of pro-choice activists and experts were shut out of the building despite repeated requests to move the meeting to a location that could accommodate all participants.

Unfortunately we can’t be too surprised by the Board’s vote, or by this administration’s blatant disregard for women’s health and rights. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Governor Bob McDonnell have spent their careers putting an anti-choice political agenda before health, safety, and Virginia law. AG Cuccinelli has publicly stated that his goal is to end abortion in Virginia, and his brazen actions over the last three months have shown us just how serious he is.

We may have lost the battle, but the fight for women’s health is just beginning.

In the coming months, we will continue to fight TRAP before it becomes law. But as the state legislative session draws nearer, Virgina women will again find themselves the target of anti-choice legislators determined to play doctor and erode critical access to reproductive health care.

We will face “personhood”, a bill that could outlaw birth control, common fertility treatments, and abortion  – even in cases of rape or incest. We will face attempts to end abortion after 20 weeks, attempts to ban insurance companies from covering reproductive services, and continued attempts to close clinics through endless bureaucratic hoops and bounds of red tape.

We have to fight back! As Advocacy & Communications Manager here at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, fighting for women’s health (through phone banking, canvassing, voter drives and more) is a large part of my job. But we need you to stand with us.

Please email me to sign up to volunteer, or if you’re interested in learning more about NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s plans for the fall. I look forward to working with you all, and continuing our fight for women’s health.

2012 General Assembly Session in Review – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

The 2012 Virginia General Assembly session has finally come to an end. However, the general assembly adjourned without passing a budget because pro-choice senators would not stand by while funding for initiatives like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPI) were being cut. They have a list of demands that they would like funded before they are willing to budge.

Rally

We are hoping the TPPI money will be restored since these programs have shown real progress in reducing teen pregnancy in areas of the state with the highest rates. It’s not too late to let your legislator know that you think restoring TPPI funding and helping teens make healthy, responsible decisions should be a priority in budget negotiations. (Not sure who your legislator is? Check here to find out.)

Below is a quick choice-related wrap up on the good, the bad and the ugly of this session. To tell you the truth, in December, we feared we would see the passage of “personhood” and many other anti-choice priorities. It just goes to show that a lot of hard work and public outreach can go a long, long way! We could not have defeated the bills that we did without the support and action of our members, activists and allies.

Here is a quick run through of both our successes and difficult losses this year: Continue reading

“Personhood” and Mandatory Ultrasound: What would they mean for Virginia women’s rights and freedom?

On the last days before bills crossover between the House and the Senate for this Virginia General Assembly session, one would think the legislators of each chamber might be be debating bills about the most pressing issues our Commonwealth faces — how to help Virginians and create jobs during the economic recession, how to cut crime in the Commonwealth, how to advance the education of our state’s young people.  But instead, the newly emboldened anti-choice majority in the House of Delegates  spent time pushing two extreme anti-choice measures and advancing them to the state Senate: the highly unpopular measure of granting “personhood” status and rights to fertilized eggs (H.B. 1), and a bill forcing a woman to undergo an ultrasound — even an invasive vaginal probe ultrasound — before an abortion, regardless of whether its medically-necessary or whether a woman wants it  (H.B. 462).

What are these two bills and what would they mean for Virginia women if the state Senate and Governor McDonnell were to approve them? Learn more:

Continue reading

Take Action: Oppose H.B. 1 “personhood” for zygotes bill in the Virginia Senate

After the passage of the H.B. 1 “personhood” for fertilized eggs bill by the Virginia House of Delegates yesterday, many people are asking us what they can do to fight back.

H.B. 1, authored by none other than the extreme anti-choice Delegate Bob Marshall, would lay the legal groundwork to ban abortion and attack common forms of contraception in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or weakens women’s privacy rights as confirmed in Roe v. Wade. H.B. 1 will now move to the state Senate for consideration — and if it passes there too, to the desk of Governor Bob McDonnell.

It’s time to show lawmakers that Virginians can see through this insidious attempt to undermine reproductive rights in Virginia and that we reject its goals of outlawing all abortion and attacking women’s access to common forms of birth control like the pill, emergency contraception and IUDs. It would lay the legal groundwork for more government interference in all pregnancies and all aspects of a woman’s reproductive life and health.

Here are some ways you can take action right now:

Edited to add (2/17/12):

You can directly contact the senators who sit on the Senate Education & Health Committee, where H.B. 1 will be heard and voted on in the Senate as soon as next week. Their names and contact information can be found here.

And of course, you can contact Governor Bob McDonnell and ask him not to sign H.B. 1 if it should pass the Senate and come to his desk.

Pass this information on to your friends and neighbors and ask them to get involved as well!

House of Delegates approves both personhood bill and mandatory ultrasound bill

On the last day before bills crossover between the House and the Senate for this General Assembly session, the House of Delegates passed H.B. 1 a bill granting personhood status and rights to fertilized eggs by a vote of 66-32.

The House also passed a bill to force women to have an ultrasound — and potentially an invasive transvaginal ultrasound — 24 hours before an abortion regardless of if it is medically necessary or if a woman wants it. This bill, H.B. 462, passed by a vote of 63-36.

We are severely disappointed that the anti-choice majority in the House of Delegates has put their ideological agenda and political concerns above women’s rights and health yet again. What’s worse is the disregard that anti-choice lawmaker show for the real impact these bills would have on women’s lives. We’ll continue to fight these and other anti-choice bills passed by the House as they move over to the Senate side.

Read our full press statement after the jump:  Continue reading

Recap of tweets from Virginia House of Delegates debate on HB1 “personhood” bill

After the jump, check out our Storify recap of tweets during the H.B. 1 debate on the floor of the House of Delegates on Monday, February 13, 2012.

Continue reading

Virginia House to Vote on H.B. 1 “Personhood” for Zygotes Bill. Contact Your Delegate Today!

On Friday, the Courts of Justice committee of the Virginia House of Delegates voted 14-4 to advance House Bill 1, a “personhood” bill to give legal status and rights to fertilized eggs from the moment of conception. If this bill becomes law, it could be used to attack the right to abortion, birth control and a range of other reproductive health care services. The full House of Delegates is expected to take a final vote on this bill on Tuesday, February 14. (You can learn more at our “personhood” information page.)

We need you to take action now to stand up against this bill! Here’s what you can do right now to make your voice heard with your legislator:

1) Find your Delegate’s information by entering your address on the Virginia General Assembly “Who’s My Legislator” page. On the results page under “More about Delegate,” you will find full contact information, including their email address and the phone number of their Capitol office.

2) Email or call (or both!) your Delegate to urge them to “oppose the H.B. 1 ‘personhood’ bill.” Here is some sample language you can use:

Dear Delegate [NAME],

As your constituent, I’m contacting you today to urge you to vote against H.B. 1, the “personhood” bill patroned by Delegate Robert G. Marshall. This bill would grant the legal status and rights of persons to fertilized eggs under Virginia law, subject only to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and could have a devastating impact on Virginia women’s rights and health by attacking access to abortion, birth control and a range of other reproductive health care services.

I am concerned because this bill lays the groundwork for banning abortion in all circumstances — even in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or threats to a woman’s life or health — if Supreme Court precedent changes. What’s more, it could also be used to attack the legality of some of the most common and effective forms of birth control that Virginia women use, including the pill, emergency contraception, and IUDs. It would also interfere in doctors ability to treat women experiencing miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

Changing the definition of “person” — a word which appears over more than 25,000 times in the Code of Virginia — would also impact thousands of other laws, wreaking legal havoc and having far-reaching and unpredictable consequences.

Please don’t allow Virginia to become the first state to pass such extreme and dangerous legislation. I urge you to oppose H.B 1. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

[YOUR  NAME AND STREET ADDRESS]

3) Let all your friends know about this bill and urge them to take action as well! Please share this information via Facebook, Twitter or send your friends across Virginia an email. You can tag our Facebook or Twitter pages when you share and follow us for more updates and opportunities for action.

General Assembly Update: January 19

Welcome to this week’s 2011 General Assembly update!

The Assembly is moving quickly during this 60-day session, so we’d like to get you caught up on legislation dealing with reproductive rights.

As we faced some tough losses this past election cycle, we’re unfortunately facing a slew of bad bills this year:

HB 1 – “Personhood”

This is the bill catching everyone’s attention this year. After Mississippi voters made it clear they didn’t want anything to do with this radical legislation, Virginia’s anti-choice legislators, led by quixotic Delegate Bob Marshall, have decided to try to get passed the General Assembly and onto Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk. This could make all forms of abortion, including in the case of rape or incest, completely illegal and ban the most effective forms of birth control.

HBs 261/462 & SBs 279/484 – Mandating Ultrasounds

Delegates Cole and Byron and Senators Vogel and Smith have brought back this familiar bill. They are all fighting to get the credit from the Family Foundation to see who can place the most undue burdens upon a pregnant woman seeking an abortion. This would force women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, and in Delegate Cole’s legislation, at least 48 hours before. This bill invades the doctor-patient relationship and forces a patient to undergo and pay for, in some cases, a procedure that may not be medically relevant or necessary. Furthermore, this violates the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics.

HB 62 – Abortion Funding

Delegate Mark Cole is back with more job creating legislation for his constituents in Stafford County. Just kidding, he doesn’t have time for that. He’s decided that it’s in the Commonwealth’s best interest to take away funding for women who need to have an abortion because a certified physician has found that the fetus will be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency.

HB 464 & SB 496 – Health Exchange

Del. Bryon and Sen. Watkins have introduced this language that creates the state’s health care exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act but prohibits the sale of insurance coverage for abortions, except when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest. Another case of those who want government to be smaller and less intrusive to be anything but.

HB 1174 – Health Insurance

Bob Marshall (yes, these names have a tendency to repeat), he of small government and less taxes, has proposed a bill telling insurance companies to hand out separate but equal insurance policies: one with abortion and one without.

These bills have all been assigned committees or sub-committees but haven’t been voted on yet. Be sure to keep checking our bill tracker to get the latest updates on all the bills we are following. And be sure to email us to if you have questions about contacting your legislator!

If you are not sure who your legislator is, you can easily find your legislator here.Or email us for more info!

Anti-choice politicians waste no time restricting choice

By Staff

The Virginia General Assembly began this past Wednesday. Only three days in, anti-choice lawmakers wasted no time ignoring the economy, education and transportation and instead working to intrude in the personal, medical decisions of Virginia women and families.

In case you missed it, here is an overview of this week in Richmond.

Allies fight back against birth control ban

Back in November, Delegate Bob Marshall continued his unending quest to interfere in the medical decisions of Virginians when he pre-filed the first bill for the 2012 session. HB 1 brings the “personhood” debate to Virginia and is so extreme it could ban the most effective forms of birth control as well as outlaw abortion in all cases, even when a woman is the victim of rape or incest.

This week, pro-choice allies in the Virginia General Assembly spoke out against the dangerous consequences of HB 1. Delegate Charniele Herring and Senator Donald McEachin called the bill exactly what it is in an article appearing in The Virginian-Pilot:

Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, called it “reckless and divisive” and “an abhorrent attack on women’s rights.”

State Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, said the Marshall bill is part of a broad assault on abortion rights by Republicans at the state and federal levels, noting that some GOP presidential contenders have expressed sympathy for such measures.

We want to send a shout out to our allies, especially Delegate Herring and Senator McEachin for speaking out against HB 1. We know most Virginians reject Delegate Marshall’s dangerous proposal and we will continue getting the word out across the state about this extreme bill. Learn how you can get involved at our “personhood” page.

More obstacles for Virginia women

While NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our allies fight for expanded and affordable access to healthcare for Virginia women, anti-choice politicians create more obstacles to timely healthcare.

Three days into the 2012 session and we already have four anti-choice bills that interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.

In the House of Delegates, Delegate Mark Cole and Delegate Kathy Byron have filed bills mandating women have ultrasounds prior to obtaining abortion care. Both bills require waiting periods between the ultrasound and the abortion procedure (with Delegate Cole’s bill requiring a waiting period of 48 hours). This will be Delegate Byron’s fifth attempt at passing such legislation.

Anti-choice Senators Ralph Smith and Jill Vogel filed similar bills on the Senate side.

Virginia women should have the option of an ultrasound if they request it or if their doctor recommends it. Politicians should not be allowed to put their agenda in the examining room with the doctor and the patient and add yet another financial and logistical obstacle for women seeking abortion care.

We have our work cut out for us this session, but we know pro-choice Virginia is strong. Be sure to keep up with the latest happenings in Richmond on our General Assembly page or on Facebook and Twitter.