RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have blocked future state funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, an issue that has long divided the Virginia legislature.
McAuliffe (D), a self-professed “brick wall” against limits on abortion, said the bill would have decimated the state’s abortion providers. Republican supporters of the bill said it would have simply forced the state to redirect future dollars to health-care centers that do not provide abortion.
“If we are going to build a new, more vibrant Virginia economy, we need to be opening up doors to quality, affordable health care, not closing them,” the governor said in a statement. “I have promised to stand in the way of any and all attempts to interfere with a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”
The bill does not appear to have enough support to survive an override attempt. It passed 64 to 35 in the House and 21 to 19 in the Senate. A two-thirds majority of both chambers is needed to override a governor’s veto.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Ben L. Cline (R-Rockbridge), filed it after the rollout this past summer of secret video footage of Planned Parenthood officials discussing in graphic detail the process of aborting a fetus to preserve organs for use by medical researchers. (Various investigations turned up no wrongdoing by the group.)
“I am disappointed that Governor McAuliffe chose to veto this important legislation that would redirect taxpayer dollars toward more comprehensive providers of health care services for women,” Cline said in a statement. “The governor is clearly listening to his friends in the abortion lobby, rather than ensuring that women have access to quality care.”
Republican backers of the bill noted that the state does not directly fund abortion clinics. Instead, the bill sought to block several small federal contracts administered by the state Department of Health for services such as screening for sexually transmitted diseases at the state’s five Planned Parenthood clinics.
“The argument that women will not have access to needed care as a result of the bill vetoed by the Governor is patently false,” Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said in a statement. “Virginia’s taxpayers are better served when their money is given to truly compassionate, comprehensive health centers like this legislation required.”
Abortion rights activists say the bill is the latest attempt by the Republican-controlled legislature to restrict access to abortion.
“Make no mistake: this bill is not an outlier,” Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said in a statement. “Instead, it is part of a well-documented pattern of anti-abortion legislators chipping away at Virginia women’s constitutional rights and access to health care.”
This session, Virginia House Republicans failed to pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy but promised to try again next year.