RICHMOND, Va. – The Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed a bill to curtail funding for Planned Parenthood and other health centers that perform abortions.
The Senate voted 20-19 along party lines in favor of HB 2264, sponsored by Del. Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst.
The bill states that the Virginia Department of Health “shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”
That means the state would cut off funds for organizations that offer abortions that are not eligible for matching funds under Medicaid. This would include any abortion outside of cases of rape, incest or “gross fetal anomalies.”
Essentially, the bill would shift funding from the five Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia to federally funded hospitals and rural clinics.
The House passed the legislation, 60-33, on Feb. 7. With the Senate’s approval, the bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe has said he will veto the measure.
Paulette McElwain, CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the bill represents the state-level version of a national vendetta to defund Planned Parenthood.
“We are, of course, very disheartened that members of the Senate have turned their backs on underserved women of Virginia,” McElwain said. “This bill specifically targets Planned Parenthood and, if passed into law, would undermine the health of thousands of our patients who count on us for comprehensive care.”
McElwain said that as a result of the legislation, “Virginia women would no longer have access to free STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing, a subsidized service utilized by nearly 2,000 of our patients last year.”
“In their single-minded focus on damaging our organization, these Virginia senators are causing direct and possibly lasting damage to the health of Virginia women,” McElwain said.
Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, agreed. “The clinics our colleagues are targeting help women treat infections like Hepatitis B to make sure these infections are not passed on to newborns through no fault of their own,” she said.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said “apologists for abortion centers” incorrectly blamed Cline’s bill for endangering women’s health.
“Virginia has a duty to steward taxpayer money in a way that ensures funds are distributed by priority to the most effective point-of-service health-care providers,” Cobb said. “This legislation simply ensures that hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics are funded over abortion centers.”
She said that more than 140 federally qualified and rural clinics in Virginia offer comprehensive services to women and that many of them are in areas where Planned Parenthood doesn’t have clinics.
By Ashley Luck with Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.