Senate committee defeats two pro-choice bills

virginia general assemblyThe Senate Committee on Education and Health rejected two pro-choice bills, SB 1424 and S.B. 1549, on party-line votes on Thursday. 

Dozens of women from across Virginia drove hours to Richmond to testify in support of the bills. Women with personal stories, students, medical professionals, mothers, and concerned citizens stood to give testimony before the committee but Chairman Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) told the group they had a total two-minutes to speak, essentially muzzling the very people they were elected to serve.  

“Coming right off the heels of the massive Women’s March on D.C. and sister marches across the Commonwealth, it’s appalling and disappointing that Chairman Newman refused to hear these women’s concerns and allow any meaningful testimony from their constituents before rejecting the bill,” says Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “Women are paying attention, they’re mobilizing, and they’re making a strong statement that they won’t stand idly by and be stripped of their reproductive rights. Furthermore, both bills would have put medical decision-making power back in the hands of Virginia women and would have brought the code of Virginia into compliance with the U.S. Constitution since the Whole Women’s Health decision was handed down last June by the Supreme Court.” 

S.B. 1424, introduced by Senator Mamie Locke, would have restored the rights of patients to receive truly informed consent by waiving medically unnecessary, ideologically driven state-mandated consent procedures such as a mandatory ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period. 

S.B. 1549, introduced by Senator Jennifer Wexton, would have legalized the standard set by the United States Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt that a woman’s access to abortion is a fundamental right and that any undue burden set with the intention of denying or limiting her access to abortion is unlawful. 

“The committee members who voted no on these two bills failed every Virginia woman seeking access to safe, legal, and judgement free abortion care,” says Keene. “A woman is perfectly capable of making her own health care decisions without interference from politicians who claim to know better – and who won’t take the time to listen to the professionals and constituents affected by these laws.” 

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