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Virginia Gets a Failing Grade
Virginia's many restrictions on reproductive rights and lack of pro-choice policies earn an "F" in NARAL Pro-Choice America's annual rating of states' laws.
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Virginia has passed over a dozen restrictions on abortion access since Roe v. Wade in 1973. For many women, accessing abortion is more difficult today than it would have been in the '70s after Roe.
|Visit AbortionRestrictions.org to learn about the impact that decades of mounting restrictions on abortion access has on Virginia women and families.|
Since 2010 alone, four new anti-choice laws have been adopted and over 80 pieces of anti-abortion or anti-birth control legislation proposed in the General Assembly. See a timeline of adopted and proposed anti-choice policies in Virginia [PDF].
Virginia currently has only 14 women's health centers that provide first-trimester abortion care. Over 92% of Virginia cities or counties have no abortion provider, and approximately 54% of Virginia women live in such a city or county. See a map of the locations of current abortion providers throughout the state.
In NARAL Pro-Choice America's January 2017 analysis of reproductive rights across U.S. states, Virginia was rated "severely restricted."
Virginia’s State Government
- Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) is pro-choice
- Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (D) is pro-choice.
- Attorney General Mark Herring (D) is pro-choice.
- The Virginia House of Delegates is majority anti-choice. Only one third of Delegates are reliable pro-choice votes.
- The Virginia Senate is majority anti-choice. Nineteen out of 40 state Senators are pro-choice.
Major Political Party Platforms
- The Democratic Party of Virginia supports a woman's right to access safe, legal abortion.
- The Republican Party of Virginia opposes a woman's right to access safe, legal abortion.
Relevant Virginia Laws In Brief
Decades of state laws passed by anti-choice politicians have eroded Virginians’ right to abortion and made it more difficult for women to access the reproductive health services and information they need. The restrictions outlined below make it more difficult for Virginia women to access quality, affordable abortion and other reproductive health services in their communities without pressure or harassment.
- Virginia bans a safe abortion procedure that falls within a broad definition of a felony, unless necessary to prevent a woman's death and the physician takes every medically reasonable step to preserve the life and health of the fetus.Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-71.1 (Enacted 2003)
Refusal to Provide Medical Services
- Virginia hospitals, medical facilities, and physicians can refuse care to a woman seeking an abortion, except in narrow circumstances when the woman’s life is at risk. Furthermore, the refusing provider is not required to offer the woman a referral for abortion services. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-75 (Enacted 1975)
Biased Counseling, Mandatory Ultrasounds, and Forced Delays
- Virginia hospitals operating under a religious institution can refuse to provide family planning information or services to patients, including birth control and emergency contraception. Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-134 (Enacted 1979)
- Virginia requires women who've decided to have an abortion to receive state-directed counseling that includes government-written materials and realistic pictures of a fetus. Women are then required to wait 24 hours after receiving this information, forcing them to delay their procedure and often to make multiple visits to the provider. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-76 (Enacted 2001; Amended 2003).
- In addition to receiving state-written counseling, Virginia requires women to undergo a state-mandated ultrasound at least 24 hours before having an abortion, regardless of whether or not she wants one or a doctor deems it medically-necessary at that time. The physician is required to offer the patient an opportunity to view the ultrasound, receive a printed copy of the ultrasound, and listen to any fetal heartbeat, and it must be recorded and certified in writing whether or not the patient decided to accept these offers. A printed copy of the ultrasound image must be maintained in the woman's medical record for at least 7 years. The additional 24-hour delay between the mandatory ultrasound and abortion can amount to even more required trips over multiple days. Va. Code § 18.2-76 (Enacted 2012)
Prohibitions on Insurance Coverage for Abortion
- Virginia prohibits private health insurance plans offered through the Virginia health insurance exchange from including coverage for abortion. Va. Code § 38.2-3451 (Enacted 2013)
- Health insurance plans for Virginia state employees also exclude coverage for abortion. Va. Dep't of Human Resource Mgmt., Mem. No. 96-9 (May 31, 1996)
Restrictions on Low Income Women’s Access to Abortion and Family Planning Services
- Virginia bars Medicaid recipients from having coverage for abortion services in almost all circumstances, even when continuing a pregnancy would put the woman's health at serious risk. Va. Code Ann. §§ 32.1-92.1, -92.2 (Enacted 1982); H.B. 30, 2010 Reg. Sess. (Va. 2010) (Enacted 2010)
Restrictions on Young Women’s Access to Abortion
- Virginia mandates that a parent or guardian must provide consent before a minor can obtain an abortion. Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-241(V) (Original Statute Enacted 1973; Relevant Provision Enacted 1997; Last Amended 2012.)
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)
- Virginia singles out abortion providers from all other outpatient health centers for regulation as a category of hospital. Women's health centers that provide abortion services have always been subject to the same requirements as other outpatient facilities, including those that provide services with higher rates of complication. Because of a 2011 amendment on a bill regarding nursing homes, however, the state Board of Health is now required to promulgate additional regulations on facilities that provide 5 or more first-trimester abortions a month. This targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) can be used to impose burdensome, medically-unnecessary restrictions, such as hospital-style construction requirements, that make it harder for outpatient clinics to stay open and provide affordable care. In the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the court found that a Texas law similarly singling out providers for hospital-style restriction was unconstitutional because it imposed a burden on abortion access without a basis in protecting women's health. Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-127 (Code section enacted 1979; Amended to include abortion providers in 2011.)
Policymakers can do a lot to ensure that all Virginians have equitable access to all the information and services they need to make the reproductive decisions that are best for themselves and their families – including preventing unintended pregnancy, accessing abortion, placing a child for adoption, and having support for healthy pregnancies, births, and children.
Virginia has some positive policies that support reproductive health care access for low-income Virginians, like the ones listed below. We still have lot of work to do, however, to ensure every Virginian has the rights and health care access they need to make the decisions that are right for them and to raise healthy families. We must also protect current pro-choice policies and programs from constant attack by anti-choice lawmakers.
- In 2017, Virginia's General Assembly passed a bill to improve access to reproductive health care services for the first time in a decade. This law will require private health insurance plans sold or renewed after January 1, 2018 to cover a woman for receiving up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraception at one time when prescribed by a health care professional. This policy reduces trips to the pharmacy every 30 or 90 days and helps prevent the gaps in daily birth control use that can lead to unintended pregnancy. Studies have shown as much as a 30% reduction in unintended pregnancy when women are able to receive a year's supply of birth control at one time.
Low-Income Virginians’ Access to Family Planning & Prenatal Care
- Through "Plan First,” an amendment to the state’s Medicaid program, Virginia allows certain low-income, uninsured individuals who do not otherwise qualify for Medicaid to obtain free family-planning and reproductive health services.
- Virginia offers healthcare coverage for uninsured pregnant women through Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS MOMS). This program provides access to quality prenatal care to increase the likelihood of a healthy birth. Services covered include prenatal and delivery services such as doctor visits, hospital visits, prescription medicine, tests and emergency care.