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Planned Parenthood: Reproductive Health Care Votes to Watch for During Virginia’s Reconvened “Veto” Session Today

"Youngkin’s vetoes underscore the need for a constitutional amendment for reproductive freedom"

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From Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia:

To: Media and Interested Parties
From: Jamie Lockhart, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia
Date: April 17, 2024
Re: Reproductive Health Care Votes to Watch for During Reconvened “Veto” Session

The General Assembly reconvenes today, Wednesday, April 17, 2024 for the purpose of considering bills returned by the Governor with recommendations for amendment or bills that received a veto. While Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia will be watching throughout, we’re particularly focused on the outcome of the following votes that will impact access to sexual and reproductive health care in Virginia.

Governor’s Amendments

  • SB238 (Hashmi)/HB819 (King): We know that high out of pocket expenses can make certain forms of birth control prohibitively expensive, and this bill would have required health plans to cover contraception without cost-sharing, so that people had access to the forms of contraception they need in reality, instead of in name only. These bills passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support.

Governor’s action: Inserting this amendment: H. The provisions of this section shall not be interpreted or construed to apply to any nongovernmental plan sponsor that is exempt under federal or state law based on sincerely held religious or ethical beliefs.

Explanation:

Instead of signing the Contraceptive Equity Act, Governor Youngkin proposed an amendment that would add a vague, broad exception to the bill. If accepted, the Governor’s amendment would essentially allow any employer to claim a religious or ethical exemption, and deny their employees the coverage required by the bill. The employers would not be required to notify their employees of their decision to deny contraception coverage, nor would there be a pathway for employees who receive health insurance through their employer to receive coverage in some other way if their employer claimed a religious or moral exemption.

While it is true that the federal contraception coverage mandate established by the ACA has an exemption for religious employers, and that the federal exception was broadened by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. to include closely-held corporations, the ACA provides a floor for contraceptive coverage requirements rather than a ceiling, meaning that states can further strengthen birth control coverage requirements with their own laws. Neither the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate exemptions, nor the ruling in Hobby Lobby apply to our state law, but the Governor’s amendment has a vague clause exempting “any nongovernmental plan sponsor that is exempt under federal law.” This exemption could give any employer in Virginia cover to ignore the requirements of SB238/HB819 without any notice or reporting, allowing them to simply refuse to cover contraception based on their ethical beliefs. That is not what Virginians want.

  • SB237 (Hashmi)/HB609 (Price): These bills protect the right to access contraception. Despite overwhelming public support, the constitutional right to contraception is being targeted by a range of candidates and policymakers who oppose reproductive health care, and indeed by the Supreme Court itself. In his concurring opinion of Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas voiced support for overturning the constitutional right to contraception – a right established in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. This legislation passed on a party-time (21Y-19N) vote in the Senate and received support from all Democrats and a few Republicans in the House of Delegates.  The legislation is on its way to Governor Youngkin where he will have 30 days to act once session concludes.

Governor’s action: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute: Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia: 1. § 1. That it shall be the public policy of the Commonwealth, independently of the requirements of the Constitution of the United States, that individuals possess the right to access contraception as set forth in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), and Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972). 

Explanation: PPAV Statement on Governor’s Action (4/9/24)

“Governor Glenn Youngkin squandered the opportunity to fully defend the reproductive freedoms of Virginians, despite widespread support within the commonwealth for protecting the right to contraception. This decision to make them into section one bills disregards the crucial nature of contraception, not just for family planning, but as essential health care. The freedom to choose whether to use an IUD, implant, condoms, or pills is a deeply personal one. Yet, this fundamental right faces unprecedented threats. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, we have seen efforts to undermine this basic health care right. Governor Youngkin’s failure to sign the Right to Contraception Act into law is a missed opportunity to affirm Virginia’s values and ensure that all individuals have the right to the contraception they need.

Virginians do not deserve to live with the uncertainty and chaos that comes with regular attacks to essential health care. Governor Youngkin’s vetoes underscore the need for a constitutional amendment for reproductive freedom that would ensure that politicians cannot take the Commonwealth backwards by restricting or banning essential reproductive health care in Virginia.”

Governor’s Vetoes

  •  SB15 (Favola)/HB1539 (Simon): This legislation aims to mitigate the risk of extradition against those assisting with and providing abortion care to patients from our commonwealth and elsewhere. It is critical that our legislators take every available opportunity to protect patients and providers from criminalization as a result of extreme anti-abortion laws in other states. SB15 is on its way to Governor Youngkin where he will have 30 days to act once session concludes. HB1539 is moving through the process and will be on the floor this week for final passage.
  • SB716 (Carroll Foy)/HB519 (King): These bills will help ensure that those who provide legal abortion care in Virginia can maintain licensure in Virginia. Individual lawmakers in hostile states have suggested they would be interested in cross-border enforcement. This bill will help to protect a health care provider’s license in Virginia if they face penalties from a hostile state for the provision of or assistance with abortion. Both of these bills have passed both bodies and are on their way to the Governor. They received bipartisan support in the House (54Y-45N) and passed on party-line votes in the Senate.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia Statement on Governor’s Vetoes (4/5/24)

“We are deeply disappointed by Governor Youngkin’s decision to veto this legislation aimed at protecting health care professionals who provide essential, time-sensitive abortion care. These bills represented a vital safeguard against the overreach of hostile states into our commonwealth, ensuring that those who provide abortion care can continue their work without fear of unwarranted penalties from out-of-state actors. These bills would have ensured that Virginia law governs what happens in Virginia. By vetoing these bills and failing to take an important stand against overzealous prosecution, the Governor has sent a discouraging message to Virginia health care professionals dedicated to reproductive rights and to the patients that rely on the availability of essential health services.

It’s critical that our policymakers leverage every opportunity to protect access to abortion, ensuring it remains accessible for Virginians and for our neighbors seeking refuge from restrictive laws in their own states. Governor Youngkin’s vetoes are particularly disheartening for Virginians who are already concerned about their access to reproductive health care, exacerbating fears and uncertainties during already challenging times.

Virginians do not deserve to live with the uncertainty and chaos that comes with regular attacks to essential health care. Governor Youngkin’s vetoes underscore the need for a constitutional amendment for reproductive freedom that would ensure that politicians cannot take the Commonwealth backwards by restricting or banning essential reproductive health care in Virginia.”

Budget Amendments

Item 4-5.04
Special Conditions and Restrictions on Expenditures

Goods and Services Language:

Page 648, line 3, strike “No” and insert “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no”.
Page 648, line 4, after “except” insert “as”.
Page 648, line 4, strike “or state statute”.

Explanation: Governor Youngkin’s budget amendment bans Medicaid-eligible Virginians from receiving funding to end pregnancies with severe fetal diagnoses, like anencephaly, in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. This funding will affect cases described in § 32.1-92.2 where the fetus “will be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or with a gross and totally incapacitating mental deficiency.” If it ends up in the final budget, Virginians with low incomes will be forced to carry pregnancies fraught with suffering.

This is discriminatory as it will disproportionately impact people of color who already face systemic barriers to health care and will be forced to carry pregnancies that could cause a stillbirth or result in the birth of a baby with health conditions that are incompatible with life. Because of the heightened mortality and morbidity risks faced by Black women and birthing people, it is particularly unconscionable to force the continuation of a pregnancy with a gross fetal diagnosis if the pregnant person does not want to carry to term.

In Fiscal Year 2023, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) approved funding for 30 abortions as a result of fetal anomalies. Families who find themselves in complex and tragic circumstances surrounding pregnancy, like a fatal fetal diagnosis, deserve our compassion and support – not shame and certainly not funding restrictions that put necessary abortion care out of reach.

See PPAV statement on the Governor’s budget from December 20, 2023

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Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia (PPAV) is a statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to preserve and broaden access to reproductive health care through legislation, public education, electoral activity and litigation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. PPAV works to ensure that individuals and families have the freedom, information, and ability to make their own informed reproductive choices.

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