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Virginia Reproductive Freedom Legislative Update

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From NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia:

Richmond, Va. – NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s Access for All legislative agenda passed in its entirety during the first half of the General Assembly session and is now headed to the opposite chamber for approval.

Friday was crossover day for the 2021 General Assembly marking the halfway point for the legislative session and the day passed bills crossover to the opposite chamber for consideration.  Last week, Governor Northam declared a Special Session extending the legislative session through Saturday, February 27.

“The passage of our entire Access for All agenda at this point in the General Assembly session shows just how much progress we have made for reproductive freedom since electing a pro-choice majority in the House and state Senate,” said Executive Director Tarina Keene.

“Virginians not only overwhelmingly support protecting and expanding access to the full range of reproductive healthcare services including abortion care, but they want their rights and freedoms preserved. Our proactive agenda is just another step  in our Access for All agenda to ensure reproductive freedom is a reality for every Virginian.”

In 2020, NARAL Virginia successfully led the historic victory in the passage of the Reproductive Health Protection Act that rolled back five egregious barriers to safe, legal abortion.

Below is an overview of our priority bills and their status:

Repeal of Abortion Coverage Ban on the State Healthcare Exchange

SB 1276, patroned by Sen. McClellan (D-Richmond), has crossed over to the House and referred to the Committee on Labor and Commerce. The corresponding HB 1896, patroned by Del. Hudson (D-Charlottesville) has crossed over to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Commerce and Labor.

As unemployment rates increase and Virginians turn to the state exchange for their healthcare, it is vital that we expand their access to reproductive healthcare by repealing the abortion coverage ban.

“Hundreds of thousands of Virginians use the exchange as their form of private health insurance, yet they’re denied using their own private dollars to purchase coverage of a safe, legal, and extremely common medical procedure,” says Sen. McClellan. “Not only is this discriminatory, it’s dangerous. This ban disproportionately affects Black and brown communities and those who are already struggling financially.”

“The existing ban is the ultimate government overreach,” says Del. Hudson. “Politicians who support bans like this one are choosing to use their platform to push an anti-abortion narrative onto the private sector, and they are stripping women of their reproductive health, rights, and financial security in the process.”

Contrary to anti-abortion claims, the exchange bill does not require the state or federal government to spend money on abortion coverage. Federal law governing the exchange maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions that govern abortion policy, which prohibit federal funds from being used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the pregnant individual’s life would be endangered).

If insurance coverage for abortion is included in a plan in the exchange, a separate premium is required for this coverage paid for by the policyholder.

12-Months of Birth Control for Medicaid Insurees

SB 1227, patroned by Senator Boysko (D-Herndon), passed unanimously out of the Senate and has crossed over to the House where it has been assigned to the Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions.

Virginians who purchase private insurance or receive coverage from their employer are already able to receive a 12-month birth control supply. Allowing Virginians on Medicaid to receive the same supply will make contraceptive access in Virginia more equitable.

Research shows that access to a full year’s supply of birth control can help people avoid gaps in usage and improve its effectiveness. Their odds of pregnancy decrease by 30%, and the need for abortion decreases by 46%.

Plan and workgroup to establish a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team (FIMRT) in Virginia

HB 1950, patroned by Del. Ayala (D-Prince William) passed unanimously out of the House and has crossed over to the Senate. It has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Education and Health.

A Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team will strengthen the Commonwealth’s systematic response to fetal and infant deaths and complement the Maternal Mortality Review Team’s work and the Neonatal and Perinatal Collaborative.

Without understanding the patterns and causes of untimely fetal and infant deaths, it is impossible to develop sustainable evidence-based solutions to reduce the number of preventable fetal and infant deaths. By creating a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team, the commonwealth will join 28 states that have existing review operations for these cases.

Workgroup to study local and regional jails procedures for the treatment of pregnant incarcerated persons

SB 1300, patroned by Sen. Favola (D-Arlington), passed on a party-line vote in the Senate and has crossed over to the House. It is assigned to the House Committee on Public Safety.

This bill requires the Board of Local and Regional Jails to establish a multidisciplinary workgroup, including the affected population, medical professionals, advocates, public defenders, and sheriffs to review current protocols for pregnant inmates and reproductive healthcare needs. The goal is to ensure that the current practices meet best practice standards.

In the days to come, NARAL Virginia will continue to use our political power to vigorously lobby for our priority legislation to pass out of the General Assembly and to the Governor’s desk.

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