News Law and Policy

Virginia Lawmakers Roll Out Pro-Choice Legislative Agenda

Nina Liss-Schultz

Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday filed a handful of bills related to reproductive and sexual health—and they are almost all pro-choice, and could roll back anti-choice policies pushed through by Virginia Republicans in recent years.

Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday filed a handful of bills related to reproductive and sexual healthand they are almost all pro-choice, and could roll back anti-choice policies pushed through by Virginia Republicans in recent years.

The state legislature convened on Wednesday for the first time this year and introduced at least eight bills related to reproductive health care. Four of those bills would repeal state regulations on abortion, while the others provide further access.

Two bills, SB 733 and HB 1524, repeal a Virginia law that requires patients undergo a transabdominal ultrasound 24 hours before getting an abortion, or two hours if the person lives more than 100 miles away from the clinic. The bills would also repeal part of the law that requires physicians offer to show the patient the ultrasound image and receive a printed copy of the image.

Both bills would leave intact the requirement that physicians receive “informed written consent” from the person prior to their abortion.

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A third bill, SB 920, repeals only the part of that law requiring the transabdominal ultrasound take place 24 (or two hours, depending on how far the person lives from the clinic) hours prior to the abortion.

And a fourth bill, SB 769, would remove the state law banning the coverage of abortion in any health insurance plan sold through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange.

Seeking to provide further protection for reproductive health care, one bill would ensure access to family planning services: SB 1277, which would mandate that contraceptives be included in any health plan that provides other prescription drugs. Insurance companies in Virginia currently have the option to cover contraceptives.

A sixth bill, HB 1541, would clarify that, in the section of the Code of Virginia that discusses crimes and penalties, birth control should not be considered abortion.

These six pro-choice bills mark a stark course change in a state that was recently called “extremely hostile” to abortion rights and received an “F” letter grade for women’s reproductive rights from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

NARAL considers both the Virginia house and senate to be anti-choice. Only eight states are considered worse in providing access to reproductive health care, according to NARAL’s analysis.

Still, not every bill introduced so far in the 2015 session has been good for reproductive health, and the legislature on Wednesday also introduced HB 1456, which would allow child-protective services to investigate private property in response to a complaint that a pregnant person is using certain controlled substances that would “render the woman’s unborn child abused or neglected.”

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