Virginia and Abortion

In Virginia’s budget debate, an unexpected focus on the birds and the bees
Virginia Mercury, Kate MastersOctober 5, 2020 (Short)
Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford, makes remarks during debate of SB5120 dealing with changes to the elections laws as debate continued in the temporary Virginia Senate chamber inside the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, VA Thursday, August 27, 2020. Listening, right, is Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax.

If state legislators didn’t already know about the birds and the bees, by the end of last week, they definitely knew about the BrdsNBz — a national sexual health textline rolled out in Virginia last year.

The program became an unexpected highlight of the General Assembly’s budget discussions after Republicans in the House and Senate drafted last-minute floor amendments to prohibit state expenditures on the textline, which is currently funded through federal grants for maternal and child health services. While BrdsNBz launched in October 2019, the Virginia Department of Health kicked off a postcard awareness campaign last month — catching the attention of legislators in districts that received the mailers.

The program, developed and administered by the American Sexual Health Association through a contract with the VDH, is intended to give teens a chance to ask potentially embarrassing questions to a trained health educator. Common questions listed on the national BrdsNBz webpage include issues from dating and relationships (“What do I do if my friend likes the same person as me?) to contraception and pregnancy (“Can condoms get inside my uterus?”).

VDH also used federal grant funding intended for abstinence-only education to fund the awareness campaign for the program. This attracted the ire of Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, whose unsuccessful amendment would have gone even further by requiring any responses from the textline to “only include information on the benefits of voluntarily refraining from sexual activity.”

“I’ve been very supportive of sex education for many, many years, but I do not believe that anybody should send a flyer to a young person and encourage them to text them all their questions,” Newman said during a floor debate on Thursday. Other Republican lawmakers — including Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, who sponsored a similarly unsuccessful amendment in the House — had similar concerns that the awareness campaign and the textline itself violated parental rights by potentially exposing teens to information on sexual identity or abortion.

“Bringing in an anonymous outside voice that may not adhere to a family’s convictions and beliefs is just wrong,” she said before a House vote on the amendment. “A vote to pass this amendment by is a vote to put an anonymous stranger in charge of our children’s sexual education.”

Fred Wyand, ASHA’s director of communications, wrote in a Friday email that the organization’s responses are based on guidance from scientific advisors, which include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The textline refers users to medical professionals for questions on diagnosable conditions, including sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, but Wyand said the goal is to provide an alternative to information online, which can be “confusing and often misleading.”

“The value we see in the BrdsNBz service is we respond to users with vetted, reliable sources of information,” he added. “We also offer gentle encouragement to users that they turn to a trusted adult for guidance, specifically parents and medical professionals like school nurses.”

A screenshot from the national website for BrdsNBz, a sexual health textline for teens and young adults that recently launched in Virginia.

Still, in some cases, conservative legislators used the floor session to float more nefarious theories about the textline, which is used in at least seven other states. Four more, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota and Rhode Island, offer similar services, according to VDH.

“I can tell you who would love to have a job with this company,” Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, said Thursday. “Every child sexual predator, even the ones we just recently paroled. … We’ve just provided a dream job for child sexual predators.”

Byron, an outspoken opponent of abortion, had previously suggested that the textline was being used as propaganda by Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and the General Assembly’s new Democratic majority.

“No longer content to indoctrinate our college-aged students, the government appears intent on feeding the values of the extreme left to our children at a very young age,” she said during a House session last week.

“And knowing this governor and the agenda of the Democratic majority, I fear this is just the beginning of many things to come,” she added.

If Democratic legislators could text a response, it would be that BrdsNBz is really NBD. Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Loudoun, pointed out Thursday that VDH has a list of commonly asked questions on its website that address many of her colleagues’ concerns.

From Oct. 1, 2019 to Aug. 31, 2020, the textline only received 295 messages from 98 individuals in Virginia, according to VDH spokeswoman Maria Reppas. But “ASHA has reported a large increase in texts in September following the postcard mailing,” she added in an email, “and VDH is waiting on September’s monthly utilization report.”

According to the department, all of ASHA’s health educators have at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of background in education or health-related fields. “All health educators undergo background checks before they are hired,” the website reads.

As for the postcard campaign, VDH says it targeted households with children between 13 and 17 and 18 to 19 year-old young adults in counties with the highest teen pregnancy rates in Virginia — a total of total of 95,956 households across the state. The decision to launch the textline was driven by a recent needs assessment conducted by the department, which found that only half of sexually active teens and young adults reported using condoms.

“Even less reported using other forms of contraception,” the department reported. “Furthermore, in this needs assessment, young people expressed a desire for more readily available, accurate and inclusive sexual health information.”

VDH pays ASHA $1,500 a month in federal funding to administer the program, according to Reppas. The total cost for running the textline since 2019 has been $16,500, plus $39,814.88 in printing and postage for the postcard awareness campaign — a total of $56,314.88. No state money has gone to BrdsNBz, she added.

The program has been a mainstay even in some states run by conservatives. First developed by a North Carolina nonprofit in 2009, BrdsNBz was run by the same group, now called SHIFT NC, until it was taken over by ASHA in 2018. It remained even after Republicans gained majority of the state’s House and Senate in 2010.

Democratic majorities in the Virginia House and Senate voted down the budget amendments that proposed limiting the program.

It’s a new day for reproductive rights in Virginia
Virginia Mercury, By Jamie Lockhart, Guest columnJuly 1, 2020 (Medium)
Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. (Robin Bravender/ States Newsroom)

By Jamie Lockhart

It’s been horrific to watch politicians across this country use the COVID-19 global pandemic as a vehicle to ban abortion and restrict access to reproductive health care. When the pandemic first hit, seven states included abortion bans in their COVID-19 emergency orders  –– making abortion inaccessible for thousands during a pandemic. And as some state legislatures return to work now, the first item on the docket for politicians in Iowa, Mississippi and Tennessee has been to try and ban abortion.

But it’s not all bad news for reproductive health care and rights. On Monday, the Supreme Court sent a resounding message to politicians all across the country: Stop trying to make abortion inaccessible. And in Virginia, today, our state will roll back decades of roadblocks that anti-abortion politicians put in place.

These huge victories for reproductive health care could not come at a more important time, as the impact of abortion restrictions were even more dangerous for Virginians during the global pandemic.

Before July 1 in Virginia, those who made the decision to end their pregnancy were forced, by law, to a 24-hour mandatory waiting period. This may not sound so restrictive on its face –– but imagine if you live over an hour away from the closest abortion provider. This politician-imposed waiting period would force you to either make two, hour-plus long round trips on back to back days, or book a hotel room. Both require money, time off of work, and a lot of travel during a global pandemic.

No medical professional would prescribe that.

And, to be clear, these restrictions disproportionately impact people of color and people earning low incomes. Racism is a public health crisis, and it can be as overt as police brutality or as subtle as state-sanctioned, anti-abortion restrictions that disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities.

And it doesn’t end there. Before July 1, patients seeking abortion care were forced, by law, to have a mandatory, medically unnecessary ultrasound and undergo biased “counseling,” for the sole purpose of shaming them. This was not prescribed by any health care provider — but rather by anti-abortion laws in our commonwealth.

But starting July 1, thanks to so many advocates in the reproductive health and rights movement and champions in the state legislature, that’s all going to change. Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly was finally able to roll back decades of roadblocks their predecessors put up for individuals seeking abortion care. By doing what is right, they have returned decisions about pregnancy from legislators back to clinicians and their patients.

The Capitol at dusk. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Patients will no longer be forced to listen to the state-mandated, biased script that is intended to shame patients and discourage them from seeking abortion. They only need to come in to see an abortion provider one time, cutting in half the need for time off of work, child care, gas money and all of the other obstacles that prevent folks from obtaining an abortion during a pandemic. They can seek abortion care from a qualified nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwives — who go through rigorous post-graduate training and have extensive clinical experience — greatly expanding abortion access in the state. And they are able to seek abortion services from more health centers in rural areas of the commonwealth after changes to medically unnecessary regulations that limited access to abortion.

The anti-abortion movement will twist these victories into suggestions that those seeking care are less safe and being kept from valuable information. The facts are, abortion is health care and it is incredibly safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. Just like any health care procedure you would receive from your primary care provider, decisions will be made by you in consultation with your clinician. Removing these onerous restrictions simply affirms that abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care that should be delivered without restrictions or delay.

No matter where we land on our support for abortion rights in the spectrum of justice, we must all agree that it is critical for people seeking abortion care to have medically accurate information about their health and the health of their families.

Virginia is poised for the largest expansion of reproductive health care access in Virginia in decades. But there is more work to be done to ensure everyone has access to abortion care. Virginia can lead the way.

Jamie Lockhart is executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

Smaller crowds but continued anger at Virginia’s second March for Life rally
Virginia Mercury, Kate MastersFebruary 13, 2020 (Short)
Roughly 1,000 people took part in the second March for Life Thursday at the Capitol to protest rollbacks of abortion restrictions. (Kate Masters/ Virginia Mercury)

More than a year has passed since video of Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, attempting to explain her ultimately unsuccessful, controversial late-term abortion bill ignited a furor. But outrage was still fresh at Virginia’s second March for Life rally, where many anti-abortion activists cited the legislation as their reason for attending.

“It’s infanticide,” said Noreen Rodgers, who traveled from Virginia Beach to attend the march for the second year in a row. “We hate the governor and we hate the policies he’s pushing.”

Bryant was specifically referring to a firestorm of criticism that erupted last year after Tran told a House committee that her bill would allow a woman to receive an abortion even up to the point when she is about to give birth. Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, added to the controversy when he tried to describe what would happen after a woman with a nonviable pregnancy went into labor.

Tran later said she misspoke, while a Northam spokeswoman said the governor’s words had been twisted by Republicans. But opponents at the rally said the incident proved abortion was becoming increasingly normalized in the state Capitol.

“It’s become too casual,” said Frank Rodgers of Virginia Beach who joined his wife at the rally. “It’s becoming accepted, even though a lot of us know it’s still wrong.”

Anger over the incident wasn’t enough to draw the same crowds as last year’s rally, which an estimated 6,500 people attended. Capitol Police were holding off on “hard estimates” this year, spokesman Joe Macenka wrote in an email, but said the initial crowd numbered about 1,000 before it quickly dissipated outside the Capitol as rain began to fall.

Speakers still congratulated the hundreds who gathered under umbrellas to protest efforts to loosen restrictions on the procedure. Many said there was a renewed urgency to rally after Democrats assumed the majority in both the House and Senate.

“We’re not worried about rain, are we?” said Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford. “That’s the least of our problems today.”

Like many other speakers, she urged the crowd not to lose sight of current legislation — passed by the House and Senate in late January — that would roll back requirements for an ultra-sound and a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion.

The bills would also strike restrictive building code requirements that threatened to shut down many clinics by mandating hospital-style standards including wider hallways and doorways. The state Board of Health never fully implemented the requirements, but they were heavily criticized by pro-choice groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argue the laws do nothing to protect women’s health.

The Senate bill would add nurse practitioners to the list of providers able to perform abortions. The House version would also add physician’s assistants and certified nurse midwives.

Supporters argue the new regulations would expand access to abortions, reflecting a six-year research study that found the procedure was just as safe when performed by those providers. But critics at the rally railed against the legislation, calling it dangerous for women.

“These are two bills that essentially decrease the requirements for women’s health in the name of abortion access,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life. She urged marchers to text a hotline that would allow them to send messages to their state delegate and senator about the legislation.

“The good news is that Virginia has elections every year,” Mancini said. “And we need to take back the General Assembly in November.”

The next elections for Virginia’s House of Delegates are in 2021.

Virginia lawmakers vote to repeal mandatory ultrasound, waiting period for abortion
Virginia Mercury, Ned OliverJanuary 29, 2020 (Short)
House Speaker Eileen Filler Corn, D-Fairfax, presides over the chamber shortly after being sworn in on the first day of the 2020 session. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

New Democratic majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate voted this week to roll back abortion restrictions the GOP put in place in 2012 mandating an ultra-sound and 24-hour waiting period.

“These restrictions were not designed to protect women, but rather to suppress their ability to make their own choices regarding their bodies,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, who carried the legislation in the House. “This bill concerns an incredibly important decision that should be left up to a woman and her healthcare provider.”

Among the code sections to be struck is a requirement that women be offered a copy of the ultrasound image and an opportunity to listen to the fetal heartbeat. The legislation would also eliminate heavily-litigated building code restrictions (referred to by opponents as TRAP laws, for “targeted restrictions on abortion providers”) that threatened to shut down many clinics by mandating hospital-style standards including wider hallways and doorways but were never fully implemented by the state Board of Health.

The bills cleared the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Tuesday. They were unanimously opposed by Republicans, who passed the requirements when they last controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the Executive Mansion — a status currently enjoyed by Democrats following sweeping electoral victories in November.

Two Democrats split with their caucuses to oppose the legislation, Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, in the House and Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, in the Senate, where Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) broke the 20-20 tie vote.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has endorsed the legislation.

In the House of Delegates, members of the Republican caucus, who opposed a vote to repeal certain abortion restrictions, placed small signs on their desks that read “Life is Beautiful.” (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

In addition to eliminating recent restrictions, the bills would expand who can perform the procedures during the first trimester from just doctors to nurse practitioners. The House version would also allow physicians assistants, language that Democrats in the Senate agreed to strike after two Republican health care professionals in the chamber, Sens. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, and Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, argued they weren’t qualified to handle the complications that can arise from the procedure.

The legislation does not address late term abortions — a subject of intense debate last year after a Democratic lawmaker acknowledged under questioning by a GOP leader that her bill would allow abortion “up until the moment of birth.” (Late term abortions are already legal, but last year’s bill would have changed the number of doctors required to sign off on the procedure from three to one, among other changes.)

Republicans prompted their own uproar in 2012 when they adopted the restrictions debated this week, which as initially drafted would have required a transvaginal ultrasound — something Democrats in the Senate noted during an impassioned, hour-long floor debate.

“Yes, we were on Saturday Night Live and the Late Show,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, who argued the laws were not intended to protect women but instead to “intimidate, shame and harass.”

Republicans argued the existing rules are prudent, measured steps aimed at ensuring safety while guaranteeing women time to weigh a procedure that can’t be reversed.

“I can tell you personally there is a cost to a rash decision,” said Dunnavant, a practicing OBGYN. “I’ve said many times this is not like a regular procedure and there are different emotional components to it.”

Sen. Jenn McClellan, D-Richmond, who proposed the legislation in the chamber, countered that two major medical groups had endorsed eliminating the requirements: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Medical Society of Virginia.

“The consensus in the medical community is that they’re not medically necessary,” she said. “The consensus in our medical community is that they put barriers in the way.”

Current Situation: Although the Roe v. Wade landmark supreme court case took place over 40 years ago, abortion is still a highly debated civil rights issue in American and Virginian politics.  Pro life and pro choice activists continue to spar over the perceived benefits and risks of increased access to abortion, and multiple pieces of legislation relating to the topic of abortion are presented in both the Virginia General Assembly and the United States Congress every year.

Abortion is a highly controversial and sensitive topic, and abortion activists on both sides of the aisle have found it hard to achieve common ground on legislation.

2020 Representative Positions

This page provides information on the opinions of Virginia delegates, state senators, and representatives regarding access to abortion.

Virginia Senators and Abortion

Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have been steadfast supporters of many women’s rights issues, including protecting a women’s right to an abortion among other related civil rights issues.  This page lists out basic information regarding both of their stated views on abortion and gives a listing of legislation which they have sponsored, supported, and opposed relating to abortion and reproductive rights while serving as Virginia’s Senators.

Current Abortion Legislation 1Virginia and Abortion

Current Situation: Although the Roe v. Wade landmark supreme court case took place over 40 years ago, abortion is still a highly debated civil rights issue in American and Virginian politics.  Pro life and pro choice activists continue to spar over the perceived benefits and risks of increased access to abortion, and multiple pieces of legislation relating to the topic of abortion are presented in both the Virginia General Assembly and the United States Congress every year.

Abortion is a highly controversial and sensitive topic, and abortion activists on both sides of the aisle have found it hard to achieve common ground on legislation.

In Virginia’s budget debate, an unexpected focus on the birds and the bees
Virginia Mercury, Kate MastersOctober 5, 2020 (Short)
Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford, makes remarks during debate of SB5120 dealing with changes to the elections laws as debate continued in the temporary Virginia Senate chamber inside the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, VA Thursday, August 27, 2020. Listening, right, is Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax.

If state legislators didn’t already know about the birds and the bees, by the end of last week, they definitely knew about the BrdsNBz — a national sexual health textline rolled out in Virginia last year.

The program became an unexpected highlight of the General Assembly’s budget discussions after Republicans in the House and Senate drafted last-minute floor amendments to prohibit state expenditures on the textline, which is currently funded through federal grants for maternal and child health services. While BrdsNBz launched in October 2019, the Virginia Department of Health kicked off a postcard awareness campaign last month — catching the attention of legislators in districts that received the mailers.

The program, developed and administered by the American Sexual Health Association through a contract with the VDH, is intended to give teens a chance to ask potentially embarrassing questions to a trained health educator. Common questions listed on the national BrdsNBz webpage include issues from dating and relationships (“What do I do if my friend likes the same person as me?) to contraception and pregnancy (“Can condoms get inside my uterus?”).

VDH also used federal grant funding intended for abstinence-only education to fund the awareness campaign for the program. This attracted the ire of Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, whose unsuccessful amendment would have gone even further by requiring any responses from the textline to “only include information on the benefits of voluntarily refraining from sexual activity.”

“I’ve been very supportive of sex education for many, many years, but I do not believe that anybody should send a flyer to a young person and encourage them to text them all their questions,” Newman said during a floor debate on Thursday. Other Republican lawmakers — including Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, who sponsored a similarly unsuccessful amendment in the House — had similar concerns that the awareness campaign and the textline itself violated parental rights by potentially exposing teens to information on sexual identity or abortion.

“Bringing in an anonymous outside voice that may not adhere to a family’s convictions and beliefs is just wrong,” she said before a House vote on the amendment. “A vote to pass this amendment by is a vote to put an anonymous stranger in charge of our children’s sexual education.”

Fred Wyand, ASHA’s director of communications, wrote in a Friday email that the organization’s responses are based on guidance from scientific advisors, which include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The textline refers users to medical professionals for questions on diagnosable conditions, including sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, but Wyand said the goal is to provide an alternative to information online, which can be “confusing and often misleading.”

“The value we see in the BrdsNBz service is we respond to users with vetted, reliable sources of information,” he added. “We also offer gentle encouragement to users that they turn to a trusted adult for guidance, specifically parents and medical professionals like school nurses.”

A screenshot from the national website for BrdsNBz, a sexual health textline for teens and young adults that recently launched in Virginia.

Still, in some cases, conservative legislators used the floor session to float more nefarious theories about the textline, which is used in at least seven other states. Four more, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota and Rhode Island, offer similar services, according to VDH.

“I can tell you who would love to have a job with this company,” Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, said Thursday. “Every child sexual predator, even the ones we just recently paroled. … We’ve just provided a dream job for child sexual predators.”

Byron, an outspoken opponent of abortion, had previously suggested that the textline was being used as propaganda by Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and the General Assembly’s new Democratic majority.

“No longer content to indoctrinate our college-aged students, the government appears intent on feeding the values of the extreme left to our children at a very young age,” she said during a House session last week.

“And knowing this governor and the agenda of the Democratic majority, I fear this is just the beginning of many things to come,” she added.

If Democratic legislators could text a response, it would be that BrdsNBz is really NBD. Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Loudoun, pointed out Thursday that VDH has a list of commonly asked questions on its website that address many of her colleagues’ concerns.

From Oct. 1, 2019 to Aug. 31, 2020, the textline only received 295 messages from 98 individuals in Virginia, according to VDH spokeswoman Maria Reppas. But “ASHA has reported a large increase in texts in September following the postcard mailing,” she added in an email, “and VDH is waiting on September’s monthly utilization report.”

According to the department, all of ASHA’s health educators have at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of background in education or health-related fields. “All health educators undergo background checks before they are hired,” the website reads.

As for the postcard campaign, VDH says it targeted households with children between 13 and 17 and 18 to 19 year-old young adults in counties with the highest teen pregnancy rates in Virginia — a total of total of 95,956 households across the state. The decision to launch the textline was driven by a recent needs assessment conducted by the department, which found that only half of sexually active teens and young adults reported using condoms.

“Even less reported using other forms of contraception,” the department reported. “Furthermore, in this needs assessment, young people expressed a desire for more readily available, accurate and inclusive sexual health information.”

VDH pays ASHA $1,500 a month in federal funding to administer the program, according to Reppas. The total cost for running the textline since 2019 has been $16,500, plus $39,814.88 in printing and postage for the postcard awareness campaign — a total of $56,314.88. No state money has gone to BrdsNBz, she added.

The program has been a mainstay even in some states run by conservatives. First developed by a North Carolina nonprofit in 2009, BrdsNBz was run by the same group, now called SHIFT NC, until it was taken over by ASHA in 2018. It remained even after Republicans gained majority of the state’s House and Senate in 2010.

Democratic majorities in the Virginia House and Senate voted down the budget amendments that proposed limiting the program.

It’s a new day for reproductive rights in Virginia
Virginia Mercury, By Jamie Lockhart, Guest columnJuly 1, 2020 (Medium)
Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. (Robin Bravender/ States Newsroom)

By Jamie Lockhart

It’s been horrific to watch politicians across this country use the COVID-19 global pandemic as a vehicle to ban abortion and restrict access to reproductive health care. When the pandemic first hit, seven states included abortion bans in their COVID-19 emergency orders  –– making abortion inaccessible for thousands during a pandemic. And as some state legislatures return to work now, the first item on the docket for politicians in Iowa, Mississippi and Tennessee has been to try and ban abortion.

But it’s not all bad news for reproductive health care and rights. On Monday, the Supreme Court sent a resounding message to politicians all across the country: Stop trying to make abortion inaccessible. And in Virginia, today, our state will roll back decades of roadblocks that anti-abortion politicians put in place.

These huge victories for reproductive health care could not come at a more important time, as the impact of abortion restrictions were even more dangerous for Virginians during the global pandemic.

Before July 1 in Virginia, those who made the decision to end their pregnancy were forced, by law, to a 24-hour mandatory waiting period. This may not sound so restrictive on its face –– but imagine if you live over an hour away from the closest abortion provider. This politician-imposed waiting period would force you to either make two, hour-plus long round trips on back to back days, or book a hotel room. Both require money, time off of work, and a lot of travel during a global pandemic.

No medical professional would prescribe that.

And, to be clear, these restrictions disproportionately impact people of color and people earning low incomes. Racism is a public health crisis, and it can be as overt as police brutality or as subtle as state-sanctioned, anti-abortion restrictions that disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities.

And it doesn’t end there. Before July 1, patients seeking abortion care were forced, by law, to have a mandatory, medically unnecessary ultrasound and undergo biased “counseling,” for the sole purpose of shaming them. This was not prescribed by any health care provider — but rather by anti-abortion laws in our commonwealth.

But starting July 1, thanks to so many advocates in the reproductive health and rights movement and champions in the state legislature, that’s all going to change. Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly was finally able to roll back decades of roadblocks their predecessors put up for individuals seeking abortion care. By doing what is right, they have returned decisions about pregnancy from legislators back to clinicians and their patients.

The Capitol at dusk. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Patients will no longer be forced to listen to the state-mandated, biased script that is intended to shame patients and discourage them from seeking abortion. They only need to come in to see an abortion provider one time, cutting in half the need for time off of work, child care, gas money and all of the other obstacles that prevent folks from obtaining an abortion during a pandemic. They can seek abortion care from a qualified nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwives — who go through rigorous post-graduate training and have extensive clinical experience — greatly expanding abortion access in the state. And they are able to seek abortion services from more health centers in rural areas of the commonwealth after changes to medically unnecessary regulations that limited access to abortion.

The anti-abortion movement will twist these victories into suggestions that those seeking care are less safe and being kept from valuable information. The facts are, abortion is health care and it is incredibly safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. Just like any health care procedure you would receive from your primary care provider, decisions will be made by you in consultation with your clinician. Removing these onerous restrictions simply affirms that abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care that should be delivered without restrictions or delay.

No matter where we land on our support for abortion rights in the spectrum of justice, we must all agree that it is critical for people seeking abortion care to have medically accurate information about their health and the health of their families.

Virginia is poised for the largest expansion of reproductive health care access in Virginia in decades. But there is more work to be done to ensure everyone has access to abortion care. Virginia can lead the way.

Jamie Lockhart is executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

Smaller crowds but continued anger at Virginia’s second March for Life rally
Virginia Mercury, Kate MastersFebruary 13, 2020 (Short)
Roughly 1,000 people took part in the second March for Life Thursday at the Capitol to protest rollbacks of abortion restrictions. (Kate Masters/ Virginia Mercury)

More than a year has passed since video of Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, attempting to explain her ultimately unsuccessful, controversial late-term abortion bill ignited a furor. But outrage was still fresh at Virginia’s second March for Life rally, where many anti-abortion activists cited the legislation as their reason for attending.

“It’s infanticide,” said Noreen Rodgers, who traveled from Virginia Beach to attend the march for the second year in a row. “We hate the governor and we hate the policies he’s pushing.”

Bryant was specifically referring to a firestorm of criticism that erupted last year after Tran told a House committee that her bill would allow a woman to receive an abortion even up to the point when she is about to give birth. Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, added to the controversy when he tried to describe what would happen after a woman with a nonviable pregnancy went into labor.

Tran later said she misspoke, while a Northam spokeswoman said the governor’s words had been twisted by Republicans. But opponents at the rally said the incident proved abortion was becoming increasingly normalized in the state Capitol.

“It’s become too casual,” said Frank Rodgers of Virginia Beach who joined his wife at the rally. “It’s becoming accepted, even though a lot of us know it’s still wrong.”

Anger over the incident wasn’t enough to draw the same crowds as last year’s rally, which an estimated 6,500 people attended. Capitol Police were holding off on “hard estimates” this year, spokesman Joe Macenka wrote in an email, but said the initial crowd numbered about 1,000 before it quickly dissipated outside the Capitol as rain began to fall.

Speakers still congratulated the hundreds who gathered under umbrellas to protest efforts to loosen restrictions on the procedure. Many said there was a renewed urgency to rally after Democrats assumed the majority in both the House and Senate.

“We’re not worried about rain, are we?” said Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford. “That’s the least of our problems today.”

Like many other speakers, she urged the crowd not to lose sight of current legislation — passed by the House and Senate in late January — that would roll back requirements for an ultra-sound and a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion.

The bills would also strike restrictive building code requirements that threatened to shut down many clinics by mandating hospital-style standards including wider hallways and doorways. The state Board of Health never fully implemented the requirements, but they were heavily criticized by pro-choice groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argue the laws do nothing to protect women’s health.

The Senate bill would add nurse practitioners to the list of providers able to perform abortions. The House version would also add physician’s assistants and certified nurse midwives.

Supporters argue the new regulations would expand access to abortions, reflecting a six-year research study that found the procedure was just as safe when performed by those providers. But critics at the rally railed against the legislation, calling it dangerous for women.

“These are two bills that essentially decrease the requirements for women’s health in the name of abortion access,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life. She urged marchers to text a hotline that would allow them to send messages to their state delegate and senator about the legislation.

“The good news is that Virginia has elections every year,” Mancini said. “And we need to take back the General Assembly in November.”

The next elections for Virginia’s House of Delegates are in 2021.

Virginia lawmakers vote to repeal mandatory ultrasound, waiting period for abortion
Virginia Mercury, Ned OliverJanuary 29, 2020 (Short)
House Speaker Eileen Filler Corn, D-Fairfax, presides over the chamber shortly after being sworn in on the first day of the 2020 session. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

New Democratic majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate voted this week to roll back abortion restrictions the GOP put in place in 2012 mandating an ultra-sound and 24-hour waiting period.

“These restrictions were not designed to protect women, but rather to suppress their ability to make their own choices regarding their bodies,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, who carried the legislation in the House. “This bill concerns an incredibly important decision that should be left up to a woman and her healthcare provider.”

Among the code sections to be struck is a requirement that women be offered a copy of the ultrasound image and an opportunity to listen to the fetal heartbeat. The legislation would also eliminate heavily-litigated building code restrictions (referred to by opponents as TRAP laws, for “targeted restrictions on abortion providers”) that threatened to shut down many clinics by mandating hospital-style standards including wider hallways and doorways but were never fully implemented by the state Board of Health.

The bills cleared the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Tuesday. They were unanimously opposed by Republicans, who passed the requirements when they last controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the Executive Mansion — a status currently enjoyed by Democrats following sweeping electoral victories in November.

Two Democrats split with their caucuses to oppose the legislation, Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, in the House and Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, in the Senate, where Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) broke the 20-20 tie vote.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has endorsed the legislation.

In the House of Delegates, members of the Republican caucus, who opposed a vote to repeal certain abortion restrictions, placed small signs on their desks that read “Life is Beautiful.” (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

In addition to eliminating recent restrictions, the bills would expand who can perform the procedures during the first trimester from just doctors to nurse practitioners. The House version would also allow physicians assistants, language that Democrats in the Senate agreed to strike after two Republican health care professionals in the chamber, Sens. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, and Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, argued they weren’t qualified to handle the complications that can arise from the procedure.

The legislation does not address late term abortions — a subject of intense debate last year after a Democratic lawmaker acknowledged under questioning by a GOP leader that her bill would allow abortion “up until the moment of birth.” (Late term abortions are already legal, but last year’s bill would have changed the number of doctors required to sign off on the procedure from three to one, among other changes.)

Republicans prompted their own uproar in 2012 when they adopted the restrictions debated this week, which as initially drafted would have required a transvaginal ultrasound — something Democrats in the Senate noted during an impassioned, hour-long floor debate.

“Yes, we were on Saturday Night Live and the Late Show,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, who argued the laws were not intended to protect women but instead to “intimidate, shame and harass.”

Republicans argued the existing rules are prudent, measured steps aimed at ensuring safety while guaranteeing women time to weigh a procedure that can’t be reversed.

“I can tell you personally there is a cost to a rash decision,” said Dunnavant, a practicing OBGYN. “I’ve said many times this is not like a regular procedure and there are different emotional components to it.”

Sen. Jenn McClellan, D-Richmond, who proposed the legislation in the chamber, countered that two major medical groups had endorsed eliminating the requirements: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Medical Society of Virginia.

“The consensus in the medical community is that they’re not medically necessary,” she said. “The consensus in our medical community is that they put barriers in the way.”

Top News

In Virginia’s budget debate, an unexpected focus on the birds and the bees
Virginia Mercury, Kate MastersOctober 5, 2020 (Short)
Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford, makes remarks during debate of SB5120 dealing with changes to the elections laws as debate continued in the temporary Virginia Senate chamber inside the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, VA Thursday, August 27, 2020. Listening, right, is Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax.

If state legislators didn’t already know about the birds and the bees, by the end of last week, they definitely knew about the BrdsNBz — a national sexual health textline rolled out in Virginia last year.

The program became an unexpected highlight of the General Assembly’s budget discussions after Republicans in the House and Senate drafted last-minute floor amendments to prohibit state expenditures on the textline, which is currently funded through federal grants for maternal and child health services. While BrdsNBz launched in October 2019, the Virginia Department of Health kicked off a postcard awareness campaign last month — catching the attention of legislators in districts that received the mailers.

The program, developed and administered by the American Sexual Health Association through a contract with the VDH, is intended to give teens a chance to ask potentially embarrassing questions to a trained health educator. Common questions listed on the national BrdsNBz webpage include issues from dating and relationships (“What do I do if my friend likes the same person as me?) to contraception and pregnancy (“Can condoms get inside my uterus?”).

VDH also used federal grant funding intended for abstinence-only education to fund the awareness campaign for the program. This attracted the ire of Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, whose unsuccessful amendment would have gone even further by requiring any responses from the textline to “only include information on the benefits of voluntarily refraining from sexual activity.”

“I’ve been very supportive of sex education for many, many years, but I do not believe that anybody should send a flyer to a young person and encourage them to text them all their questions,” Newman said during a floor debate on Thursday. Other Republican lawmakers — including Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, who sponsored a similarly unsuccessful amendment in the House — had similar concerns that the awareness campaign and the textline itself violated parental rights by potentially exposing teens to information on sexual identity or abortion.

“Bringing in an anonymous outside voice that may not adhere to a family’s convictions and beliefs is just wrong,” she said before a House vote on the amendment. “A vote to pass this amendment by is a vote to put an anonymous stranger in charge of our children’s sexual education.”

Fred Wyand, ASHA’s director of communications, wrote in a Friday email that the organization’s responses are based on guidance from scientific advisors, which include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The textline refers users to medical professionals for questions on diagnosable conditions, including sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, but Wyand said the goal is to provide an alternative to information online, which can be “confusing and often misleading.”

“The value we see in the BrdsNBz service is we respond to users with vetted, reliable sources of information,” he added. “We also offer gentle encouragement to users that they turn to a trusted adult for guidance, specifically parents and medical professionals like school nurses.”

A screenshot from the national website for BrdsNBz, a sexual health textline for teens and young adults that recently launched in Virginia.

Still, in some cases, conservative legislators used the floor session to float more nefarious theories about the textline, which is used in at least seven other states. Four more, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota and Rhode Island, offer similar services, according to VDH.

“I can tell you who would love to have a job with this company,” Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, said Thursday. “Every child sexual predator, even the ones we just recently paroled. … We’ve just provided a dream job for child sexual predators.”

Byron, an outspoken opponent of abortion, had previously suggested that the textline was being used as propaganda by Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and the General Assembly’s new Democratic majority.

“No longer content to indoctrinate our college-aged students, the government appears intent on feeding the values of the extreme left to our children at a very young age,” she said during a House session last week.

“And knowing this governor and the agenda of the Democratic majority, I fear this is just the beginning of many things to come,” she added.

If Democratic legislators could text a response, it would be that BrdsNBz is really NBD. Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Loudoun, pointed out Thursday that VDH has a list of commonly asked questions on its website that address many of her colleagues’ concerns.

From Oct. 1, 2019 to Aug. 31, 2020, the textline only received 295 messages from 98 individuals in Virginia, according to VDH spokeswoman Maria Reppas. But “ASHA has reported a large increase in texts in September following the postcard mailing,” she added in an email, “and VDH is waiting on September’s monthly utilization report.”

According to the department, all of ASHA’s health educators have at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of background in education or health-related fields. “All health educators undergo background checks before they are hired,” the website reads.

As for the postcard campaign, VDH says it targeted households with children between 13 and 17 and 18 to 19 year-old young adults in counties with the highest teen pregnancy rates in Virginia — a total of total of 95,956 households across the state. The decision to launch the textline was driven by a recent needs assessment conducted by the department, which found that only half of sexually active teens and young adults reported using condoms.

“Even less reported using other forms of contraception,” the department reported. “Furthermore, in this needs assessment, young people expressed a desire for more readily available, accurate and inclusive sexual health information.”

VDH pays ASHA $1,500 a month in federal funding to administer the program, according to Reppas. The total cost for running the textline since 2019 has been $16,500, plus $39,814.88 in printing and postage for the postcard awareness campaign — a total of $56,314.88. No state money has gone to BrdsNBz, she added.

The program has been a mainstay even in some states run by conservatives. First developed by a North Carolina nonprofit in 2009, BrdsNBz was run by the same group, now called SHIFT NC, until it was taken over by ASHA in 2018. It remained even after Republicans gained majority of the state’s House and Senate in 2010.

Democratic majorities in the Virginia House and Senate voted down the budget amendments that proposed limiting the program.

It’s a new day for reproductive rights in Virginia
Virginia Mercury, By Jamie Lockhart, Guest columnJuly 1, 2020 (Medium)
Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. (Robin Bravender/ States Newsroom)

By Jamie Lockhart

It’s been horrific to watch politicians across this country use the COVID-19 global pandemic as a vehicle to ban abortion and restrict access to reproductive health care. When the pandemic first hit, seven states included abortion bans in their COVID-19 emergency orders  –– making abortion inaccessible for thousands during a pandemic. And as some state legislatures return to work now, the first item on the docket for politicians in Iowa, Mississippi and Tennessee has been to try and ban abortion.

But it’s not all bad news for reproductive health care and rights. On Monday, the Supreme Court sent a resounding message to politicians all across the country: Stop trying to make abortion inaccessible. And in Virginia, today, our state will roll back decades of roadblocks that anti-abortion politicians put in place.

These huge victories for reproductive health care could not come at a more important time, as the impact of abortion restrictions were even more dangerous for Virginians during the global pandemic.

Before July 1 in Virginia, those who made the decision to end their pregnancy were forced, by law, to a 24-hour mandatory waiting period. This may not sound so restrictive on its face –– but imagine if you live over an hour away from the closest abortion provider. This politician-imposed waiting period would force you to either make two, hour-plus long round trips on back to back days, or book a hotel room. Both require money, time off of work, and a lot of travel during a global pandemic.

No medical professional would prescribe that.

And, to be clear, these restrictions disproportionately impact people of color and people earning low incomes. Racism is a public health crisis, and it can be as overt as police brutality or as subtle as state-sanctioned, anti-abortion restrictions that disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities.

And it doesn’t end there. Before July 1, patients seeking abortion care were forced, by law, to have a mandatory, medically unnecessary ultrasound and undergo biased “counseling,” for the sole purpose of shaming them. This was not prescribed by any health care provider — but rather by anti-abortion laws in our commonwealth.

But starting July 1, thanks to so many advocates in the reproductive health and rights movement and champions in the state legislature, that’s all going to change. Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly was finally able to roll back decades of roadblocks their predecessors put up for individuals seeking abortion care. By doing what is right, they have returned decisions about pregnancy from legislators back to clinicians and their patients.

The Capitol at dusk. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Patients will no longer be forced to listen to the state-mandated, biased script that is intended to shame patients and discourage them from seeking abortion. They only need to come in to see an abortion provider one time, cutting in half the need for time off of work, child care, gas money and all of the other obstacles that prevent folks from obtaining an abortion during a pandemic. They can seek abortion care from a qualified nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwives — who go through rigorous post-graduate training and have extensive clinical experience — greatly expanding abortion access in the state. And they are able to seek abortion services from more health centers in rural areas of the commonwealth after changes to medically unnecessary regulations that limited access to abortion.

The anti-abortion movement will twist these victories into suggestions that those seeking care are less safe and being kept from valuable information. The facts are, abortion is health care and it is incredibly safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. Just like any health care procedure you would receive from your primary care provider, decisions will be made by you in consultation with your clinician. Removing these onerous restrictions simply affirms that abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care that should be delivered without restrictions or delay.

No matter where we land on our support for abortion rights in the spectrum of justice, we must all agree that it is critical for people seeking abortion care to have medically accurate information about their health and the health of their families.

Virginia is poised for the largest expansion of reproductive health care access in Virginia in decades. But there is more work to be done to ensure everyone has access to abortion care. Virginia can lead the way.

Jamie Lockhart is executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

Smaller crowds but continued anger at Virginia’s second March for Life rally
Virginia Mercury, Kate MastersFebruary 13, 2020 (Short)
Roughly 1,000 people took part in the second March for Life Thursday at the Capitol to protest rollbacks of abortion restrictions. (Kate Masters/ Virginia Mercury)

More than a year has passed since video of Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, attempting to explain her ultimately unsuccessful, controversial late-term abortion bill ignited a furor. But outrage was still fresh at Virginia’s second March for Life rally, where many anti-abortion activists cited the legislation as their reason for attending.

“It’s infanticide,” said Noreen Rodgers, who traveled from Virginia Beach to attend the march for the second year in a row. “We hate the governor and we hate the policies he’s pushing.”

Bryant was specifically referring to a firestorm of criticism that erupted last year after Tran told a House committee that her bill would allow a woman to receive an abortion even up to the point when she is about to give birth. Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, added to the controversy when he tried to describe what would happen after a woman with a nonviable pregnancy went into labor.

Tran later said she misspoke, while a Northam spokeswoman said the governor’s words had been twisted by Republicans. But opponents at the rally said the incident proved abortion was becoming increasingly normalized in the state Capitol.

“It’s become too casual,” said Frank Rodgers of Virginia Beach who joined his wife at the rally. “It’s becoming accepted, even though a lot of us know it’s still wrong.”

Anger over the incident wasn’t enough to draw the same crowds as last year’s rally, which an estimated 6,500 people attended. Capitol Police were holding off on “hard estimates” this year, spokesman Joe Macenka wrote in an email, but said the initial crowd numbered about 1,000 before it quickly dissipated outside the Capitol as rain began to fall.

Speakers still congratulated the hundreds who gathered under umbrellas to protest efforts to loosen restrictions on the procedure. Many said there was a renewed urgency to rally after Democrats assumed the majority in both the House and Senate.

“We’re not worried about rain, are we?” said Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford. “That’s the least of our problems today.”

Like many other speakers, she urged the crowd not to lose sight of current legislation — passed by the House and Senate in late January — that would roll back requirements for an ultra-sound and a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion.

The bills would also strike restrictive building code requirements that threatened to shut down many clinics by mandating hospital-style standards including wider hallways and doorways. The state Board of Health never fully implemented the requirements, but they were heavily criticized by pro-choice groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argue the laws do nothing to protect women’s health.

The Senate bill would add nurse practitioners to the list of providers able to perform abortions. The House version would also add physician’s assistants and certified nurse midwives.

Supporters argue the new regulations would expand access to abortions, reflecting a six-year research study that found the procedure was just as safe when performed by those providers. But critics at the rally railed against the legislation, calling it dangerous for women.

“These are two bills that essentially decrease the requirements for women’s health in the name of abortion access,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life. She urged marchers to text a hotline that would allow them to send messages to their state delegate and senator about the legislation.

“The good news is that Virginia has elections every year,” Mancini said. “And we need to take back the General Assembly in November.”

The next elections for Virginia’s House of Delegates are in 2021.

Virginia lawmakers vote to repeal mandatory ultrasound, waiting period for abortion
Virginia Mercury, Ned OliverJanuary 29, 2020 (Short)
House Speaker Eileen Filler Corn, D-Fairfax, presides over the chamber shortly after being sworn in on the first day of the 2020 session. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

New Democratic majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate voted this week to roll back abortion restrictions the GOP put in place in 2012 mandating an ultra-sound and 24-hour waiting period.

“These restrictions were not designed to protect women, but rather to suppress their ability to make their own choices regarding their bodies,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, who carried the legislation in the House. “This bill concerns an incredibly important decision that should be left up to a woman and her healthcare provider.”

Among the code sections to be struck is a requirement that women be offered a copy of the ultrasound image and an opportunity to listen to the fetal heartbeat. The legislation would also eliminate heavily-litigated building code restrictions (referred to by opponents as TRAP laws, for “targeted restrictions on abortion providers”) that threatened to shut down many clinics by mandating hospital-style standards including wider hallways and doorways but were never fully implemented by the state Board of Health.

The bills cleared the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Tuesday. They were unanimously opposed by Republicans, who passed the requirements when they last controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the Executive Mansion — a status currently enjoyed by Democrats following sweeping electoral victories in November.

Two Democrats split with their caucuses to oppose the legislation, Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, in the House and Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, in the Senate, where Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) broke the 20-20 tie vote.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has endorsed the legislation.

In the House of Delegates, members of the Republican caucus, who opposed a vote to repeal certain abortion restrictions, placed small signs on their desks that read “Life is Beautiful.” (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

In addition to eliminating recent restrictions, the bills would expand who can perform the procedures during the first trimester from just doctors to nurse practitioners. The House version would also allow physicians assistants, language that Democrats in the Senate agreed to strike after two Republican health care professionals in the chamber, Sens. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, and Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, argued they weren’t qualified to handle the complications that can arise from the procedure.

The legislation does not address late term abortions — a subject of intense debate last year after a Democratic lawmaker acknowledged under questioning by a GOP leader that her bill would allow abortion “up until the moment of birth.” (Late term abortions are already legal, but last year’s bill would have changed the number of doctors required to sign off on the procedure from three to one, among other changes.)

Republicans prompted their own uproar in 2012 when they adopted the restrictions debated this week, which as initially drafted would have required a transvaginal ultrasound — something Democrats in the Senate noted during an impassioned, hour-long floor debate.

“Yes, we were on Saturday Night Live and the Late Show,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, who argued the laws were not intended to protect women but instead to “intimidate, shame and harass.”

Republicans argued the existing rules are prudent, measured steps aimed at ensuring safety while guaranteeing women time to weigh a procedure that can’t be reversed.

“I can tell you personally there is a cost to a rash decision,” said Dunnavant, a practicing OBGYN. “I’ve said many times this is not like a regular procedure and there are different emotional components to it.”

Sen. Jenn McClellan, D-Richmond, who proposed the legislation in the chamber, countered that two major medical groups had endorsed eliminating the requirements: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Medical Society of Virginia.

“The consensus in the medical community is that they’re not medically necessary,” she said. “The consensus in our medical community is that they put barriers in the way.”

Summary

Current Situation: Although the Roe v. Wade landmark supreme court case took place over 40 years ago, abortion is still a highly debated civil rights issue in American and Virginian politics.  Pro life and pro choice activists continue to spar over the perceived benefits and risks of increased access to abortion, and multiple pieces of legislation relating to the topic of abortion are presented in both the Virginia General Assembly and the United States Congress every year.

Abortion is a highly controversial and sensitive topic, and abortion activists on both sides of the aisle have found it hard to achieve common ground on legislation.

About

Pro-Choice Movement

National Abortion Federation

Abortion has been performed for thousands of years, and in every society that has been studied. It was legal in the United States from the time the earliest settlers arrived. At the time the Constitution was adopted, abortions before “quickening” were openly advertised and commonly performed.

In the mid-to-late 1800s states began passing laws that made abortion illegal. The motivations for anti-abortion laws varied from state to state. One of the reasons included fears that the population would be dominated by the children of newly arriving immigrants, whose birth rates were higher than those of “native” Anglo-Saxon women.

 

Pro Life Movement

Abolishing Abortion: The History of the Pro-Life Movement in America

In March 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump argued that women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were made illegal. Trump quickly reversed himself, but the previously pro-choice candidate had stumbled into an argument that pro-life advocates have studiously avoided over the last forty years for fear of being labelled antiwoman. Some social observers looked at such statements and wondered if they signaled the declining importance of pro-life politics, and social conservatism more broadly, to the Republican party. Is the antiabortion movement no longer relevant in the United States? Those who would answer yes might suffer from myopia. In fact, the antiabortion movement, in its many iterations, has radically transformed Americans’ ideas about women’s bodies, reproduction, feminist politics, and of course, fetal life. In the two centuries the movement has existed, its constituencies, tactics, and tools have all changed.

Polls and Statistics

National Public Opinion Poll, 1995-2019

As of 2019, public support for legal abortion remains as high as it has been in two decades of polling. Currently, 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 38% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Views about abortion by state (2014)

Virginia matched the national average for support of abortion in all or most cases in 2014, with 55% of Virginia adults and 55% of US adults supporting access to abortion.

Congress

General Assembly

REPro Equal Access Laws (SB 1451 – HB 2491)

Patrons: Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Kathy Tran

Status: SB 1451 died in Senate Committee on Education and Health, HB 2491 died in House Committee on Courts.

Reproductive Freedom Act (SB 1637 – HB 2369)

Patrons: Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Charniele Herring

Status: SB 1637 died in Senate Committee on Education and Health, HB 2369 was left in House Committee on Rules.

Constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortion (HJ 715)

Patron: Delegate Kathy Byron

Status: Left in House Committee on Privileges and Elections

Repeal ultrasound requirement for abortion (SB 1054)

Patron: Senator Mamie Locke

Status: Incorporated into SB 1451 and passed by indefinitely in Senate Committee on Education & Health.

Senate Committees

Committee on Education and Health

Subcommittees: Certificate of Public Need, Health Care, Health Professions. Higher Education, Public Education

House Committees

Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions

Organizations

Pro Choice Organizations in Virginia

Naral Pro-Choice Virginia

ACLU of Virginia

Virginia League for Planned Parenthood

Pro Life Organizations in Virginia

Virginia Society for Human Life

The Family Foundation of Virginia

Pro-life Action League

X
2020 Representative Positions

This page provides information on the opinions of Virginia delegates, state senators, and representatives regarding access to abortion.

Summary

This page provides information on the opinions of Virginia delegates, state senators, and representatives regarding access to abortion.

Virginia General Assembly- House

Northern Virginia

Delegates who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2): Read more about legislation she sponsored here and her support here.

Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-10): Read more about legislation she sponsored here and her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Danica Roem (D-13): Read  more about legislation she sponsored here.

Delegate Liz Guzman (D-31): Read more about legislation she sponsored here.

Delegate David Reid (D-32): Read more about legislation he sponsored here and his support here.

Delegate Kathleen Murphy (D-34): Read more about her support here.

Delegate Mark Keam (D-35): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate David Bulova (D-37): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Ken Plum (D-36): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

Delegate Kaye Kory (D-38): Read more about legislation she sponsored here and her support here.

Delegate Vivian Watts (D-39): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Kathy Tran (D-42): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and legislation she was a patron of here.

Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Paul Krizek (D-44): Read more about legislation he sponsored here and his support here.

Delegate Mark Levine (D-45): Read more about legislation he sponsored here and his support here.

Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47): Read more about legislation he sponsored here and his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Rip Sullivan (D-48): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and his support here.

Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-49): Read more about legislation he sponsored here and his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Lee Carter (D-50): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here, legislation he sponsored here, and his support here.

Delegate Hala Ayala (D-51): Read more about legislation she sponsored here and her support here.

Delegate Luke Torian (D-52): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

Delegate Marcus Simon (D-53): Read more about legislation he sponsored here and his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Karrie Delaney (D-67): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate John Bell (D-87): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

 

Delegates whose Position is Unclear:

Delegate Ibraheem Samirah (D-86)

 

Delegates who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Chris Collins (R-29): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33): Read about his opposition here and his voting record on abortion here.

Delegate Tim Hugo (R-40): Read about his opposition here and his voting record on abortion here.

 

 

 

Central Virginia

Delegates who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate David Toscano (R-57): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

 

Delegates who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Mike Webert (R-18): Read more about his opposition here and his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Steve Landes (R-25): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26): Read more about his voting record on abortion here and his opposition here.

Delegate Bob Thomas (R-28): Read more about his opposition here.

Delegate Nick Freitas (R-30): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

Delegate Robert Orrock (R-54): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

Delegate Rob Bell (R-58): Read more about his voting record on abortion here and his opposition here.

Delegate Matthew Farris (R-59): Read more about his voting record on abortion here and his opposition here.

Delegate Mark Cole (R-88): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

 

Delegates whose Position is Unclear

Delegate John McGuire (R-56)

 

 

 

Southeastern Virginia

Delegates who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Kelly Fowler (D-21): Read more about her support here.

Delegate Cliff Hayes (D-77): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Stephen Heretick (D-79): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Matthew James (D-80): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Joseph Lindsey (D-90): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Jeion Ward (D-92): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and her voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Mike Mullin (D-93): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and his support here.

Delegate Marcia Price (D-95): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and her voting record on abortion legislation here.

 

Delegates who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Emily Brewer (R-64): View a video of her speaking at the House Republican Press Conference on Life here.

Delegate Chris Jones (R-76): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Jeff Leftwich (R-78): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Barry Knight (R-81): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Jason Miyares (R-82): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Christopher Stolle (R-83): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Glenn Davis (R-84): Read more about his voting record on abortion here and his opposition here.

Delegate Jennifer Kiggans (R-85): Read more about her endorsement by the National Right to Life Committee here.

Delegate Gordon Helsel (R-91): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate David Yancey (R-94): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96): Read more about her voting record o abortion legislation here.

Delegate Margaret Ransone (R-99):  Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here and her opposition here.

Delegate Robert Bloxom (R-100): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

 

Delegates whose Position is Unclear

Delegate Jay Jones (D-89)

 

Southcentral Virginia

Delegate who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-63): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and her support here.

Delegate Dawn Adams (D-68): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Betsy Carr (D-69): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and her voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Delores McQuinn (D-70): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here and legislation she sponsored here.

Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-72): Read more about legislation he sponsored here and his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Debra Rodman (D-73): Read more about legislation she sponsored here and her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-74): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delgate Roz Tyler (D-75): Read more about legislation she sponsored here and her voting record on abortion legislation here.

 

Delegates who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Roxann Robinson (R-27): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Buddy Fowler (R-55): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate James Edmunds (R-60): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Thomas Wright (R-61): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Riley Ingram (R-62): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Lee Ware (R-65): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Kirkland Cox (R-66): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Chris Peace (R-97): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Keith Hodges (R-98): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

 

Delegates whose Position is Unclear

Delegate Jeffrey Bourne (D-71)

Southwestern Virginia

Delegates who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-11): Read about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and his support here.

Delegate Chris Hurst (D-12): Read more about his endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here and his support here.

 

Delegates who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Will Morefield (R-3): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

Delegate Israel O’Quinn (R-5): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Jeffrey Campbell (R-6): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Nick Rush (R-7): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Charlie Poindexter (R-9): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

Delegate Danny Marshall (R-14): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Les Adams (R-16): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Chris Head (R-17): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Terry Austin (R-19): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here.

Delegate Scott Garrett (R-23):  Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

Delegate Ronnie Campbell (R-24): Read more about his opposition here.

Delegate Todd Pillion (R-40): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

 

Delegates whose Position is Unclear

Delegate Joseph McNamara (R-8)

 

 

 

Virginia General Assembly- Senate

Northern Virginia

Delegates who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Jeremy McPike (D-29): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30):Read more about his voting record on abortion and legislation he sponsored here.

State Senator Barbara Favola (D-31): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here .

State Senator Janet Howell (D-32): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-33): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here and her support here.

State Senator Chap Petersen (D-34): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Dick Saslaw (D-35): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his support here.

State Senator Scott Surovell (D-36): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his support here.

State Senator David Marsden (D-37): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his rating from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

State Senator George Barker (D-39): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senators who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Richard Black (R-13): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Jill Vogel (R-27): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here.

 

 

Central Virginia

State Senators who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25): Read more about his voting record on abortion here.

 

State Senators who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Ryan McDougle (R-4): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Richard Stuart (R-28): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

South Central Virginia

State Senators who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-9): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here and her support here.

State Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-10): Read more about her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-16): Read more about his endorsements from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia and Planned Parenthood here.

State Senator Louise Lucas (D-18): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here.

 

State Senators who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Amanda Chase (R-11): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Frank Ruff (R-15): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Bill Stanley (R-20): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Mark Peake (R-22): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his opposition here.

Southeastern Virginia

State Senators who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Monty Mason (D-1): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Mamie Locke (D-2): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here and her rating from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

State Senator Lionell Spruill (D-5): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Lynwood Lewis (D-6): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

 

State Senators who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator Thomas Norment (R-3); Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Jennifer Kiggans (R-7): Read more about her endorsement from the National Right to Life Committee here.

State Senator Bill DeSteph (R-8): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here

State Senator John Cosgrove (R-14): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

Southwestern Virginia

State Senators who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator John Edwards (D-21): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

 

State Senators who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

State Senator David Suetterlein (R-19): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Steve Newman (R-23): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Benton Chafin (R-38): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here.

State Senator Todd Pillion (R-40): Read more about his endorsement from the National Right to Life Committee here.

 

US House

Representatives who Generally Support Increased Access to Abortion

US Representative Elaine Luria (D-2): Read more about her support here and her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice Virginia here.

US Representative Bobby Scott (D-3): Read more about his 100% rating from Naral Pro-Choice America here and his voting record here.

US Representative Donald McEachin (D-4): Read more about his 100% rating for his voting record on women’s reproductive rights from Planned Parenthood here and his voting record on abortion legislation here.

US Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-7): Read more about her 100% rating for her voting record on women’s reproductive rights from Planned Parenthood here and her support here.

US Representative Don Beyer (D-8): Read more about his 100% ratings from Naral Pro-Choice America as well as Planned Parenthood here and his support here.

US Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-10): Read more about her voting record on abortion legislation here and her endorsement from Naral Pro-Choice America here.

US Representative Gerry Connolly (D-11): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here,  his 100% ratings from Planned Parenthood and Naral Pro-Choice America here, and his support here.

 

Representatives who Generally Oppose Increased Access to Abortion

US Representative Rob Wittman (R-1): Read more about about his 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee here, his voting record on abortion legislation here, and his opposition here.

US Representative Denver Riggleman (R-5): Read more about his 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee here.

US Representative Ben Cline (R-6): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee here.

US Representative Morgan Griffith (R-9): Read more about his voting record on abortion legislation here and his 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee here.

 

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Virginia Senators and Abortion

Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have been steadfast supporters of many women’s rights issues, including protecting a women’s right to an abortion among other related civil rights issues.  This page lists out basic information regarding both of their stated views on abortion and gives a listing of legislation which they have sponsored, supported, and opposed relating to abortion and reproductive rights while serving as Virginia’s Senators.

Summary

Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have been steadfast supporters of many women’s rights issues, including protecting a women’s right to an abortion among other related civil rights issues.  This page lists out basic information regarding both of their stated views on abortion and gives a listing of legislation which they have sponsored, supported, and opposed relating to abortion and reproductive rights while serving as Virginia’s Senators.

Senator Tim Kaine

Relevant Committees

 Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee

Subcommittee on Children and Families

Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security

Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues

Sponsored Legislation and Key Votes

Sponsored Legislation

S 2578: Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (Co-sponsor)

Key Votes

Sn Amdt 2669: Rescinds Funds from Planned Parenthood (voted Nay)

HR 3762: Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015 (voted Nay)

HJ Res 43: Providing for Congressional Disapproval of the Rule Submitted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Relating to Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients  (voted Nay)

S Amdt 2791: Preventive Services Coverage Requirements (voted Yea)

HR 36: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act  (voted Nay)

 

Endorsements/Views

Source: Wikipedia

Kaine, a Roman Catholic, is personally against abortion, but is “largely inclined to keep the law out of women’s reproductive decisions.” Kaine has said: “I’m a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade and women being able to make these decisions. In government, we have enough things to worry about. We don’t need to make people’s reproductive decisions for them.” Kaine supports some legal restrictions on abortion, such as requiring parental consent for minors (with a judicial bypass procedure) and banning late-term abortions in cases where the woman’s life is not at risk.

Tim Kaine has received scores based on his support for abortion and related women’s issues from the following organizations:

Planned Parenthood has given Senator Kaine a perfect score of 100 for his voting record on abortion and women’s issues, and has endorsed Senator Kaine multiple times.

Naral Pro-Choice America has also given Sentor Kaine a perfect score of 100 for his voting record on abortion and reproductive issues.

The Anti-Abortion National Right to Life Committee has given Senator Kaine a score of 0 for his voting record on abortion.

Senator Mark Warner

Relevant Committees

Currently, Senator Warner is not a member of any congressional committee which is related to healthcare in general, women’s healthcare, or civil and human rights.

Sponsored Legislation and Key Votes

Source: Vote Smart

Sponsored Legislation

S 2578: Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (Co-sponsor)

Key Votes

Sn Amdt 2669: Rescinds Funds from Planned Parenthood (voted Nay)

HR 3762: Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015 (voted Nay)

HJ Res 43: Providing for Congressional Disapproval of the Rule Submitted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Relating to Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients  (voted Nay)

S Amdt 2791: Preventive Services Coverage Requirements (voted Yea)

S Amdt 2962:Prohibiting Federally Funded Abortion Services (voted Yea, which was a tabling vote in this case. PLEASE NOTE: Tabling votes  of Yea halt and aim to remove legislation from further consideration, votes of Nay aim to further consider the legislation.)

HR 3590: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (voted Yea)

Endorsements/Views

Source: On the Issues

In an interview, Senator Warner stated “I support Roe v Wade. But I think folks with differing views on the issue of abortion can all agree that we ought to do everything we can to reduce unintended pregnancies. I signed a bill when I was governor to require parental notification with a judicial bypass. As the father of three daughters, I am very comfortable with this law.”

Senator Warner has received scores from the following organizations based on his voting record on abortion and related women’s issues:

Planned Parenthood has given Senator Warner a perfect score of 100 for his voting record on abortion and women’s issues and has endorsed him numerous times.

Naral Pro-Choice America has also given Senator Warner a perfect score of 100 for his voting record on abortion and reproductive issues.

The Anti-Abortion National Right to Life Committee has given Senator Warner a score of 0 for his voting record on abortion.

Federal News

Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue over Trump abortion coverage rule

Source: The Hill

By Nathan Weixel

February 11, 2020

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing the Trump administration over a new rule requiring insurers to send a separate bill for abortion coverage.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, claims the rule is designed to make insurance companies stop offering coverage for abortion.

Under the rule, insurance companies that sell plans on the Affordable Care Act individual marketplaces will be required to send two separate bills to customers — one for the coverage of abortion care, and another for coverage of other health care.

Trump first president to attend anti-abortion rally

Source: BBC

By Ritu Prasad

January 24, 2020

Until now no president had ever attended the march, which takes place just steps from the White House, though previous Republican presidents, including George W Bush and Ronald Reagan, have addressed the group remotely.

Mr Trump’s appearance at the 47th March for Life delighted protesters.

Voters who support limiting abortion make up a key constituency for Mr Trump, who is seeking their support at the polls again in the 2020 election.

On Friday, marchers in Washington shouted “four more years” and “we love you”.

Court strikes down Mississippi 15-week abortion ban

Source: CNN

By Caroline Kelly- December 13, 2019

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban on Friday, the latest legal blow to an effort by a conservative-leaning state looking to restrict abortion.

None of the bans passed by Mississippi and eight other states this year restricting abortion past a certain point in pregnancy have gone into effect, with most of them having been blocked by federal judges.

“States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right, but they may not ban abortions,” US Appeals Court Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote in the ruling Friday night.

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