By Alix Hines
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Virginia’s fight over reproductive rights usually happens during rallies and protests on the grounds of the Capitol or during intense debate on the floor of the House or Senate. But last week, the League of Women Voters of Virginia discussed the issue in a calmer setting – during a Wednesday morning tradition called the Women’s Roundtable.
As part of the roundtable, the nonpartisan organization invited representatives from both parties to speak about legislation they are sponsoring that would be of interest to women voters.
Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, spoke about reproductive health in Virginia. He addressed abortion head-on, talking about the medical necessity of the procedure.
“In my opinion, the way to have less abortions is to have education for both women and men,” said Northam, a pediatric neurologist at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. He also emphasized the importance of having accessible health care to decrease the number of abortions in Virginia.
Northam said the agenda of some legislators during the General Assembly’s 2012 session was to limit women’s access to reproductive health care. For example, lawmakers passed Republican-sponsored legislation to require women to have an abdominal ultrasound before an abortion.
That measure, Northam said, was the first in a long line of bills in which the government tried to dictate what someone can do to their body.
Legislation introduced this session, Northam explained, would prevent Medicaid from paying for first-trimester or early second-trimester abortions. Although this proposal was defeated, Northam identified it as another attack on women’s health issues.
Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, continued the Medicaid discussion by describing the amendment she introduced. Her amendment would expand Medicaid so that:
- The federal government would pay for all additional Virginians who would be covered by the Medicaid expansion for three years.
- After that, the federal government would pay for 90 percent of new Medicaid patients resulting from the expansion.
- Over 10 years or so, the state would receive about $29 billion in federal money. This would probably create 30,000 health care jobs in the state, primarily in areas with limited access to health care, Favola said.
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, has introduced similar amendments that focus on Medicaid reform in hopes that Gov. Bob McDonnell will buy into the plan.