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Budget Conferees Eliminate Block Grant to Fund Long-Acting Birth Control
Richmond, VA - Late last night, select members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees released their agreed-upon conference report for the Virginia state budget, after nearly a week of haggling over discrepancies between the House- and Senate-approved versions. On the chopping block was a $6 million appropriation, championed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, that would have provided funding for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). An amendment proposal to eliminate coverage for Medicaid-eligible women who seek abortion services following a diagnosis of a totally incapacitating fetal anomaly did not pass through the Joint Conference Committee.
The conference committee, composed of 10 Republicans and three Democrats from the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees, did eliminate a $6 million federal block grant to create a pilot program for expanding access to LARCs like IUDs – some of the most effective and popular forms of birth control. Conservative legislators have frequently used debunked science to falsely claim that IUDs cause abortions.
"Every Virginia woman deserves the freedom to choose what birth control method is best for her – regardless of her income and without interference from politicians quoting junk science to push their ideology,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. "Clearly, the health of low-income women is not a priority for the General Assembly.”
A similar program in Colorado resulted in a 40% decrease in unintended pregnancy. Advocates pointed out that not all forms of birth control are created equal, and that a woman’s ability to select the birth control method that works best for her shouldn’t depend on her income or where she obtains her health insurance coverage. Every woman should have information and access to the full range of contraception options so that she, in consultation with her health care provider, can decide which option is right for her.
The elimination of the block grant follows on the heels of a rare bipartisan victory with the passage of HB 2267, which allows women to get a full year’s supply of birth control pills at one time through their health insurance provider.
"The elimination of LARC funding shows that there is still a lot of work to do to improve access to the full range of reproductive health options for uninsured or underinsured women,” said Keene. "HB 2267 is a victory we should savor, but by its nature it only applies to women who have private health insurance. Combined with the General Assembly’s refusal to expand Medicaid and nationwide threats to insurance coverage and birth control access, the elimination of the block grant from Virginia’s budget is just another callous disregard of the healthcare needs of low-income women and families by politically-motivated politicians.”