Virginia Governor Introduces Amendment to Bar Abortion Coverage From State Health Insurance Plans

Richmond, Virginia — The governor of Virginia has introduced an amendment that seeks to bar abortion coverage from being included in health insurance plans in the Commonwealth.

“No qualified health insurance plan that is sold or offered for sale through an exchange established or operating in the Commonwealth shall provide coverage for abortions, regardless of whether such coverage is provided through the plan or is offered as a separate optional rider thereto,” the proposed bill by Governor Bob McDonnell states. The legislation provides exemptions in the instances of rape, incest and the life of the mother.

The amendment serves as a part of Virginia’s health insurance reform bill, which passed earlier this month. McDonnell recently sent the amendment to the legislature as a recommended inclusion in the law. Reports state that the bill is likely to pass unless the Republican-controlled House obtains 51 votes against it, and 21 in the Senate.

Some legislators may be pleased that McDonnell, a Roman Catholic, has introduced the measure, as Delegate Bob Marshall criticized the governor last week for his lack of participation in pro-life efforts so far this year.

“The governor and Republican House and Senate leaders completely ignored any new legislative efforts to protect preborn children in the 2013 session because they wanted to avoid controversy in an election year,” he wrote in an email to his constituents. “If Gov. McDonnell does not hear from many principled pro-lifers like yourself, he may continue to do nothing to protect our conscience from the HHS Mandate or to prohibit abortion coverage in health exchanges.”

Pro-abortion groups, however, are now criticizing McDonnell for taking action.

“With this amendment, Governor McDonnell is once again attempting to intrude in women’s health care decisions and block Virginians access to the critical medical care they need,” NARAL of Virginia wrote in a press release issued today. “Coverage for safe, legal abortion care – a procedure an estimated one in three women will access in their lifetimes – is a basic benefit that most insurance plans currently include. By banning women from using their own funds to purchase plans that include this common benefit, Governor McDonnell is restricting Virginians’ personal economic decisions as well as their access to comprehensive care.”

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The amendment has the exact opposite goal of what lawmakers are currently considering in Washington State. As previously reported, legislators in Washington are considering enacting a law that would mandate insurance companies in the state to provide coverage for abortion, making Washington the first-ever in the nation’s history to do so.

Pro-life organizations are now fighting the efforts.

“Washington state would be the only state in the country that would force employers to pay for abortion,” Peggy O’Ban, spokeswoman for Human Life of Washington, told reporters. “[The bill would become] the first conscience coercion act in American history.”

“To mandate that we violate our conscience is tyranny,” said Dan Kennedy, CEO of Human Life of Washington. “There’s no subtle or soft way to put the truth.”

Currently, 21 states across the nation have some form of ban or restriction on abortion coverage.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

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