While Virginia lawmakers have said they plan to prioritize jobs, transportation and education this year, abortion and contraception appear to be back on the agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
The commonwealth grabbed national headlines and punchlines in 2012 for controversial abortion legislation. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), known as a staunch pro-life advocate, and others have pre-filed several bills that would make access to abortions and contraception in Virginia more difficult.
Among the proposals are bills that would allow public and private employers to opt out of providing insurance coverage that includes “contraception methods, sterilization procedures, or abortifacient drugs or devices.” Under one proposal, employees would have to request such coverage as part of their insurance plan.
Pro-choice activists are expressing concern over what they see as a renewed push to limit women’s reproductive health rights.
“Instead of leaving behind their divisive anti-women agenda, conservatives in Richmond are expanding those attacks on women’s health,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, which is a member organization of the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition.
“We’re seeing a repeat this year of the huge gap between their rhetoric and their actions,” Scholl said. “Conservatives didn’t learn the lesson last year that women in Virginia will not stand for attacks on their access to health care. … These sort of attacks don’t reflect Virginians’ priorities and aren’t something they support.”