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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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In NARAL Pro-Choice America's 2016 annual report, "Who Decides? The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States,” Virginia received a failing "F" grade. Furthermore, 92 percent of Virginia counties have no abortion provider.
Virginia’s Current 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.
- The Virginia Senate is majority anti-choice.
Major Political Party Platforms
- The Democratic Party of Virginia supports a woman's right to choose safe, legal abortion.
- The Republican Party of Virginia opposes a woman's right to choose safe, legal abortion.
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
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.
- Virginia hospitals operating under a religious institution can refuse to provide family planning information or services to patients, including birth control and emergency contraception.
Biased Counseling, Mandatory Ultrasounds, and Forced Delays
- Virginia requires women to receive state directed counseling that includes possible alternatives to abortion and realistic pictures of a fetus. Women are then mandated to wait 24-hours after counseling, forcing them to make multiple trips before they can access the procedure.
- 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 necessary. The physician is required to offer the woman to view the ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat. The additional 24-hour delay between the mandatory ultrasound and abortion amounts to even more required trips over multiple days.
Va. Code § 18.2-76 (Amendment enacted 2012)
Insurance Prohibition for Abortion
- Virginia prohibits private health insurance plans offered through the Virginia health insurance exchange from including coverage for abortion.
- 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 women on Medicaid from having coverage for abortion, even when a woman’s pregnancy causes severe health risks.
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)
- In 2011, Virginia enacted a law requiring the state Board of Health to promulgate regulations on outpatient first-trimester abortion providers as a type of hospital. This targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) singles out abortion providers from other outpatient facilities for medically-irrelevant hospital-style requirements and restrictions that make it harder for them to stay open.
Policymakers can do a lot to ensure that all Virginians have equitable access to the information and services they need to make the reproductive decisions that are best for themselves and their families – from preventing unintended pregnancy, to accessing abortion if they choose, to having healthy pregnancies and births, to arranging adoption or raising their children.
Virginia has some positive policies, listed below, that support reproductive rights and health care, but has a lot of work to do to make reproductive choice a reality for all. We must also protect current pro-choice policies and programs from constant attack by anti-choice lawmakers.
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.