A bill removing funding from Planned Parenthood and similar organizations in the state passed the Virginia Senate Monday by a vote of 21-19. The senators voted strictly along party lines — 21 votes supporting the bill came from the Republican party, while the 19 opposing votes came from the Democratic party.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has not yet acted upon the bill, which passed the House Feb. 16 in a 64-35 vote.
The bill “prohibits the Department of Health from spending any funds on an abortion that is not qualified for matching funds under the Medicaid program or providing any grants or other funds to any entity other than a licensed hospital that performs such abortions,” according to the bill summary.
While the bill removes existing state funding for facilities that provide abortion coverage for women who are eligible for Medicaid, it does not completely defund those facilities.
Republican Del. Benjamin L. Cline of the 24th district introduced the bill.
“I strongly believe that we should live in a society that promotes and protects the sanctity of human life,” Cline said on his website. “I believe that life begins at conception and as the sponsor of legislation to ban embryonic stem-cell research, I will continue to support the protection of innocent life.”
Out of the 67 Republicans and 33 Democrats who currently comprise the House of Delegates, 35 other Republican delegates co-sponsored the bill.
The Virginia Society for Human Life, a pro-life non-profit organization, is among the bill’s chief supporters.
“If passed, [the bill] will ensure that only legitimate health care providers will be eligible for state funds under Medicaid in Virginia,” the organization posted on their Facebook page March 4.
Subsequent comments on the page Monday expressed further support of the bill and encouraged the public to contact McAuliffe’s office and ask him to not veto the bill.
Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, advocated against the bill on behalf of the organization.
“We want to make sure that all people who are seeking health care, especially reproductive health care, get what they need in a timely manner and that it’s accessible and that it’s affordable,” Keene said. “We want to make sure that we increase access to health care, not diminish it.”
Keene said she and her colleagues attended several committee meetings to deliver testimony but were not given sufficient time to do so.
“We actually went to one senate committee hearing and sat there for three and a half hours … and they didn’t get the opportunity to speak to the committee,” Keene said.
NARAL Pro-Choice gathered over 4,400 signatures in approximately two weeks on a petition against the bill and delivered these signatures to the senators, making note of which signatures came from their specific constituents, Keene said.
Keene said she and her fellow advocates met with McAuliffe Monday, and he assured them of his plans to veto this bill.
“At this point in time we are fully expecting and hoping that the Governor will remain a brick wall for women’s health and rights in Virginia and will veto this legislation,” Keene said.
McAuliffe’s office declined to comment on the bill until the governor acts on it.