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Anti-Abortion Policies Dominate in Virginia

Anti-abortion lawmakers in Virginia have worked to restrict women’s right to choose in the past month, with bills in progress ranging from banning so-called “partial-birth” abortion to letting health care practitioners opt out of prescribing birth control pills. However, the bills are facing a Democratic governor, Mark Warner, who used his veto power last year only once–on a bill banning late-term abortions that did not include exceptions to preserve the life or health of the mother, the Post reports. Despite this threat of veto, both houses have passed a bill banning “partial-birth” abortion.

Last Wednesday, Delegate Richard Black (R-Loudon) received bipartisan criticism for sending Virginia’s 40 senators a pink plastic fetus along with a letter urging support for the anti-abortion measures, according to the Washington Post. Black is the sponsor of a bill requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions that goes beyond Virginia’s current parental notification law. The bill has already passed both houses, but Warner has expressed doubts about the need for a stricter saw, saying, “Show me where parental notification is not working. I haven’t seen that yet. If I can’t be shown that, I’m going to veto the bill,” according to the Post.

Anti-abortion lawmakers are also targeting Planned Parenthood in their attack on reproductive rights. However, they have so far been unsuccessful in their efforts to block state funding from the group. The first attempt was so broad that it would have eliminated state funding from a wide range of health providers, including hospitals, according to the Post. Delegate Bradley P. Marrs (R-Richmond) then inserted a line into Virginia’s budget prohibiting state funds from going to Planned Parenthood, which was approved by the House last week. However, the amendment specifically blocked funding for Planned Parenthood for family planning and abortion services, and Planned Parenthood receives state funds for AIDS and HIV services, not family planning, according to the Post.

Another bill that cleared the House would require abortion clinics–which already fall under federal and state regulations, including the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)–to take on the additional burdens to which hospitals are subjected. Specifically, the bill forces clinics to meet measurement for square footage, doorways, parking lots, closets, and drinking fountain placement–all of which amount to extensive costs and renovations that could hinder or ultimately close clinic operations. However, the Post reports that a Senate committee killed a similar bill.

The House has also passed a bill providing a “conscience clause” for health care providers to opt out of providing any procedure that they consider abortion, including prescribing birth control pills. In addition, the House approved “Choose Life” license plates, which recently were ruled unconstitutional in South Carolina. Democratic state senators have expressed their concern over what one called a “tidal wave of attacks on reproductive rights”Ñ”[Anti-abortion legislators] are after shutting down a woman’s right to choose. They will do it by any means possible,” Delegate Robert Brink (D-Arlington) told the Post. The Feminist Majority joins other women’s rights groups in opposing all restrictions on access to safe, legal abortions.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women’s narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.

Sources:

Washington Post 2/9/03, 2/11/03; Associated Press 2/8/03; Capital News Service 2/4/03; The Free-Lance Star 1/28/03