Virginia Legislators, Listen Closely: Virginians Support Women’s Health

Update, February 11, 1:45 p.m.: The ultrasound repeal bill, SB 617, passed the state senate Tuesday. It now heads to the Republican-dominated house.

Last fall, Virginians sent a resounding, crystal-clear message to our legislators. We showed them at rallies, in polls, and at the ballot box that we support women’s health and will no longer tolerate extreme, anti-woman policies.

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson: Voters started the election season in favor of Ken Cuccinelli. But as his outrageous positions on restricting birth control, defunding Planned Parenthood, and restricting access to safe, legal abortion became clearer, Cuccinelli lost his edge. Planned Parenthood supporters and volunteers knocked on more than 90,000 doors, made some 26,000 calls, and rallied outside key electoral events to educate women about where the candidates stood on women’s health and rights. And once they knew, they cast a decisive vote for the candidate who supported them.

Women, who voted for Gov. Terry McAuliffe by a margin of nine points, propelled McAuliffe to victory. Now, instead of having a governor who wants to restrict our rights and hurt our health, we have one who has pledged to stand with us like a “brick wall” when our rights are under attack.

If Virginia legislators want to keep their seats, they had better listen closely: Our state is proclaiming, loudly, that it’s time to end out-of-touch policies that restrict women’s health.

Virginia senators now have a chance to do just that. They’ll vote Tuesday on whether to repeal the harmful, medically unnecessary law that requires women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion and a mean-spirited ban that outlaws abortion coverage in plans sold in the federally facilitated marketplace.

The laws are an appalling and offensive government overreach that have absolutely nothing to do women’s health care. They’re about one thing and one thing only, and that’s shaming and preventing women from seeking safe, legal health care.

Leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose mandatory diagnostic tests that are unnecessary, like the required ultrasound. Sadly, far too many Virginia politicians have been willing to discard this medical expertise and to support policies that prevent women, who have a host of medical concerns that men do not, from accessing the full range of women’s health services under their health insurance. This is particularly unconscionable considering that recent research shows that one-third of U.S. women live on the brink of poverty, one doctor’s bill, late paycheck, or broken down car away from economic ruin.

Considering these facts and the forceful message of the latest election, it’s frankly shocking that politicians continue to push for these hostile restrictions. Virginia voters sent a resounding message that they want politicians to stay out of women’s health care.

Legislators on Tuesday have a choice. Follow McAuliffe’s lead and stand with women. Or follow Cuccinelli’s lead and stand against us. Then, we will have a choice. And we will choose to stand with politicians who stood with us and to vote against those who didn’t. Cuccinelli is a cautionary tale.

Virginia senators should keep this in mind as they cast their votes on whether to repeal these disgraceful bills and later this week when they decide whether to expand Medicaid. I know the voters of Virginia will keep these votes in mind the next time we head to the polls.

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