Health News

Virginia lawmakers pass bills to expand contraceptive coverage and protect abortion providers

The Virginia General Assembly has approved two bills that aim to improve reproductive health care and rights in the state. The bills, which now await Governor Glenn Youngkin’s signature or veto, would ensure affordable and accessible contraceptive coverage and protect abortion providers from punitive actions by the Virginia Board of Medicine.

Contraceptive Equity Act

The Contraceptive Equity Act (SB238/HB819) would require health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without co-pays, cost-sharing, or other barriers. The bill would also allow individuals to obtain up to a 12-month supply of birth control at one time, and prohibit insurers from imposing prior authorization or step therapy requirements for contraceptive services.

The bill’s supporters say that it would reduce unintended pregnancies, improve maternal and infant health outcomes, and promote reproductive autonomy and economic security for Virginians. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of all pregnancies in Virginia are unintended, and the state ranks 35th in the nation for maternal mortality. Studies have shown that eliminating cost barriers and increasing access to contraception can lower the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion, and save public health care costs.

Protect Virginia’s Health Workers bill

The Protect Virginia’s Health Workers bill (SB716/HB519) would safeguard abortion care in Virginia and protect abortion providers from potential sanctions by the Virginia Board of Medicine. The bill would clarify that the board can only take adverse actions against providers of abortion for abortion care that is prohibited by Virginia law, rather than that of other states.

Virginia lawmakers pass bills to expand contraceptive coverage and protect abortion providers

The bill’s supporters say that it is necessary to shield abortion providers from the threats and harassment of anti-abortion states that have enacted severe restrictions on abortion since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. The decision, which effectively overturned Roe v. Wade, allowed states to ban or limit abortion before viability, and opened the door for criminalizing abortion providers and patients. As a result, many abortion seekers from neighboring states have traveled to Virginia, where abortion is still legal and accessible, to obtain care. The bill would ensure that providers can offer legal abortion care to all who need it without fear of reprisal.

Youngkin’s response

The two bills, which passed with mostly party-line votes in the Democratic-controlled legislature, are now headed to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk for his approval or veto. Youngkin, a Republican who took office in January, has not indicated his position on the bills, but he has expressed his opposition to abortion and support for religious exemptions for health care workers.

The bills’ supporters urge Youngkin to sign the bills and uphold Virginia’s reputation as a leader in reproductive health and rights. They argue that the bills reflect the will of the majority of Virginians, who support access to contraception and abortion, and oppose government interference in personal health care decisions . They also warn that vetoing the bills would have negative consequences for the health and well-being of Virginians, especially women, low-income people, and people of color, who face the most barriers to reproductive health care.


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