News Law and Policy

All-Male Committee Defeats Virginia Contraceptive Access Bill

Nina Liss-Schultz

A Virginia senate committee composed of only men on Monday voted to defeat a bill that would have increased access to prescription contraceptives by mandating insurance plans cover more of them.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said insurance companies can choose not to include coverage of FDA-approved contraceptives in their plans. Insurance companies can choose to limit coverage of various types of FDA-approved contraceptives in their plans, thereby limiting access to specific methods. We regret the error.

A Virginia senate committee composed of only men on Monday voted to defeat a bill that would have increased access to prescription contraceptives by mandating insurance plans cover more of them.

The bill, SB 1277, was introduced last week and would have required health insurance companies to cover all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives if they cover other prescription drugs.

Right now, insurance companies can choose to limit coverage of FDA-approved contraceptives in their plans, by, for example, offering coverage for only one formulation of birth control pills. This limits access to contraception for people who need other formulations.

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The Committee on Commerce and Labor, whose membership is all male, voted 11-3 to “pass by indefinitely,” effectively defeating the legislation unless the committee decides to take it up at a later date.

“We are incredibly disappointed in today’s vote,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “Ninety-nine percent of American women will use contraception at some point in their lifetimes, and birth control is basic, essential health care for women.”

Birth control access was a central issue in Virginia’s electoral battles last fall.

Ed Gillespie, the GOP’s candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia in 2014, was among a slew of Republican candidates who, hoping to make gains among women voters, emphasized support for over-the-counter birth control—an overwhelmingly popular measure. Gillespie lost his Senate bid.

The Virginia legislature introduced a number of other pro-choice bills last week, including bills that would repeal a Virginia law forcing women to undergo transabdominal ultrasounds before an abortion and a law banning coverage of abortion in any health insurance plan sold through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange.

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