Friday, February 28, 2020
Abortion restrictions that were enacted when Republicans controlled Virginia’s General Assembly are being undone in legislation approved by the Democrats who are now in charge.
The House on Thursday gave final passage to a bill that would roll back provisions including a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and a requirement that women seeking an abortion undergo an ultrasound and counseling. The measure would also undo the requirement that abortions be provided by a physician, allowing nurse practitioners to perform them, and do away with strict building code requirements on facilities where abortions are performed.
The Senate companion measure passed earlier in the week. The legislation now goes to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who supports it.
“When this legislation goes into effect, Virginians will no longer have to navigate an obstacle course of delays and barriers in order to access a safe and legal abortion,” said Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.
The measures passed largely along party lines, with staunch opposition from Republicans and religious advocacy groups that testified against it in committee hearings.
Republican Del. Kathy Byron said in a floor speech Thursday that the changes would lead to women being less informed about “maybe one of the most important decisions that they ever make.”
“What we're doing today is we're voting to deny women complete information on what an abortion means, its consequences, its implications, its alternatives," she said.
The law, passed Thursday in the House of Delegates, will repeal Virginia’s mandatory waiting period, which requires patients to wait 24 hours after a consultation to receive an abortion. It will allow certified nurse midwives and nurse practitioners to perform first-trimester abortion services and remove the requirement that providers give counseling to patients seeking abortions. It will also eliminate the requirement for an ultrasound before an abortion, a practice that can be traumatizing for patients. The American Medical Association says mandatory ultrasounds provide no “additional medically necessary information.” ***
“Those restrictions in the code were politically charged,” says Herring, “and it had nothing do with the provision of good care.”
Democratic state lawmakers across the country have passed similar abortion protections in the past year, as attacks on abortion access have ramped up in conservative states. In 2019, nine states—Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Hawaii—passed legislation protecting or expanding the right to an abortion. Maine also voted to allow certified nurse midwives and nurse practitioners to provide non-surgical abortions. Four states codified Roe v. Wade by enshrining the right to an abortion in their state law.
Herring says she hopes Virginia will be the next state to codify the right to an abortion. She notes that there are a record number of women from both parties in the legislature. “When women are elected and in power,” she says, “there will be a tendency that we make sure that we are protecting our interests.”