Senate Democrats vote to protect women’s access to healthcare

The Senate Committee on Education and Health voted along party lines Thursday to report two bills that would protect women’s access to healthcare by rolling back restrictions enacted by Republicans.

state-capitol2SB 617, patroned by Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), would repeal the mandatory ultrasound requirement that Republicans passed in 2012. Under that law, women seeking an abortion must submit to an abdominal ultrasound — regardless of their wishes, and regardless of the wishes of their doctors. The bill reported 9-5, with one Republican abstaining.

SB 618, patroned by Sen. Locke and Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and co-patroned by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), would enable Virginia women to buy insurance that covers abortion on Virginia’s health exchange, provided that the coverage is paid for with their own money and not with public funds. The bill reported 9-6.

Said Sen. Locke, “Over the last few years, we’ve seen exactly what Republicans’ regressive policies mean for Virginia women. The government shouldn’t force people to undergo needless medical procedures, and it shouldn’t limit access to perfectly legal insurance coverage. Today, we passed two commonsense bills that begin to repair the harm Republicans have done to women’s healthcare.”

Said Sen. McEachin, “I don’t understand why my Republican colleagues opposed these bills. Medical decisions should be made by the patient and the doctor. Insurance decisions should be made by the families buying coverage. Politicians in Richmond have no right to insert themselves into either process, and I’m disappointed that my Republican colleagues disagree. ”

Speaking in favor of SB 618, Majority Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said, “The state has no business inserting itself into a woman’s private medical decisions. None. Why we do that — and why we do that on just this issue — is beyond me.”

Numerous outside advocacy groups appeared to testify in favor of one or both bills, including NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Planned Parenthood, and Progress Virginia.

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