House subcommittee votes to remove abortion funding for low-income women

A House Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee voted on Thursday in favor of House Bill 62, which repeals current Virginia law providing state funding for an abortion to low-income women when a doctor believes and certifies that the fetus would be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency.

“Today’s vote is both shameful and callous,” said Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia. “HB 62 denies low-income women access to safe care for no other reason than their poverty. No woman plans to have an abortion, but if she needs one, every woman deserves the opportunity to make the best decision for her circumstances. Women and their families should have access to safe and affordable health services, especially in a medical crisis.”

Pro-choice advocates and medical professional groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics, provided testimony opposing HB 62.

Despite expert medical testimony opposing the bill, subcommittee members voted 4-1 in favor of it, siding with anti-choice advocates who were unable to provide any scientific data to support their arguments that there are sometimes “false positives” in the diagnosis of fetal anomalies. Del. Algie Howell (D-Norfolk) was the lone dissenting vote.

The availability of funding for abortions for low-income women when there are fetal anomalies has been part of the Virginia code for decades. In the past fiscal year, only 23 women received state Medicaid funds to terminate their pregnancies based on a fetal anomaly diagnosis at a cost of less than $15,000 to the Commonwealth.

HB 62 was introduced by Del. Mark Cole and will be heard next by the full House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee.

“The ACLU of Virginia and its allies in the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition urge legislators to put medical expertise above politics and oppose HB 62,” added Greenier.

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