On Thursday, Virginia lawmakers passed the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA), a “commonsense bill intended to roll back politically-motivated restrictions on access to abortion that have no basis in patient health and safety and only serve to eliminate access to safe, legal abortion care and shut down health centers in Virginia.”

Pro-choice lawmakers hope the RHPA can transform Virginia into an access point for reproductive health information and services in the Southern United States. Currently, 92% of counties in Virginia have no abortion clinic, largely as a result of the passage of anti-choice laws over the past few years in the state.

The RHPA would overturn several medically unnecessary restrictions in Virginia, including the mandate of ultrasounds; state-based biased counselling; and a 24-hour delay, the consequences of which are exacerbated by scheduling conflicts, childcare arrangements, travel, and financial issues regarding covering a second visit not covered by insurance.

Additionally, the RHPA would allow qualified nurse practitioners to provide abortion care, thus significantly increasing access throughout the state. Nurse practitioners in Virginia already perform various clinical procedures, such as IUD insertions and removals, and are knowledgeable about abortion procedures and post-procedural management. Pro-choice advocates argue a block on their participation in abortion care is solely politically-motivated.

Finally, the RHPA would overturn Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which subject abortion clinics and providers to regulations that are often more strict, specific, and costly than those applied to general medical clinics. TRAP laws often prevent small, independent providers from operating due to medically unnecessary remodeling costs.

The recent vote sends the RHPA to Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, who is expected to sign it into law.

Sources: National Review, 2/27/20; Blue Virginia, 2/20/20; Rewire, 9/13/18; NARAL, 1/16/20

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