Virginia Senate passes bill to repeal ban on abortion coverage for health insurance plans

Virginia Politics

Virginia State Capitol (Photo: 8News)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Friday, the Senate of Virginia passed a bill that would remove the ban on abortion coverage for health insurance plans offered in Virginia through the health benefits exchange.

SB1276 would make Virginia the first state in the South to end these restrictions on abortion access, according to a statement from Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), who introduced the legislation.

The bill passed by a 20-17 margin.

“Today, Virginia moved one step closer to ending an unnecessary law that restricts Virginians’ reproductive health care options,” McClellan said in a statement. “Virginians deserve to be able to choose whatever health plan meets their needs, but that option is not available to Virginians covered by the exchange.”

Today, Jan. 22, is also the 48th anniversary of Roe. vs. Wade, the Supreme Court Ruling that determined the constitution protects a woman’s right to get an abortion without excessive restrictions from the government.

In a hearing earlier this week, McLellan said removing the prohibition would not lead to taxpayers paying for abortions. However, Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, disagrees.

“While SB 1276 doesn’t require that plans cover abortion yet, it is only a matter of time before our taxes are being used to cover other people’s abortions in future plans.” Turner said in a statement.  “All Virginians, regardless of their position on the legality of abortion, should be disturbed by this change in the law.”

VSHL said they also disagree with this bill because it will be hard for people who have “ethical objections” to abortions to find state-run plans that don’t cover them.

The next step is for the passage of its companion bill in the House. HB1896 was introduced by Del. Sally Hudson (D).

“Repealing the ban is long overdue, but it’s urgent now with so many workers having lost their jobs and seeking coverage on the state exchange,” Hudson said.

After the Senate passed the bill, the Virginia Catholic Conference issued a statement from Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge and Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout.

“We express our deep disappointment with today’s Virginia Senate vote to infuse the Commonwealth’s health benefits exchange with abortion for any reason, funded in significant part with Virginians’ tax dollars.

“Created pursuant to the federal Affordable Care Act, the health exchange is a virtual ‘marketplace’ for those shopping for health insurance. Taxes pay for managing the exchange, and for subsidizing health plans of tens of thousands of low- and middle-income Virginians using the exchange to provide healthcare for themselves and their families. Ten years ago, our Virginia Catholic Conference advocated – and succeeded in attaining – an important provision keeping most abortions out of the exchange. Keeping taxpayer-subsidized abortion-on-demand out of the exchange is consistent with the federal Hyde Amendment, in place for more than four decades and which most Americans support. Tragically, the Senate today took a far different path. Replacing the current life-saving restrictions on abortion with a policy of abortion coverage without limits in our state exchange is drastic, dangerous and will result in the tragic end to more unborn lives. We understand the House of Delegates will be voting on this policy next week. We urge them to reject this abortion expansion and preserve the sensible, life-affirming health exchange policy Virginia has had for the past 10 years.

“Abortion is not healthcare; it ends lives instead of healing them. We express our deep disappointment with this vote on a very solemn day in U.S. history. On this day when we reflect in particular on the more than 60 million unborn lives lost since the Roe v. Wade decision, and on every day, we continue to advocate with relentless determination for healthcare that affirms every life, born and unborn.”

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