By SaraRose Martin
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – In an effort to protect and expand women's health care in Virginia, House Democrats said Tuesday they have introduced three bills to ensure easier access to abortion and contraceptives.
The bills represent a contrast to Republican measures such as the "Day of Tears" resolution that encourages Virginians to mourn abortion, Democratic legislators and their allies said at a news conference.
Progress Virginia Executive Director Anna Scholl said the General Assembly has seen more than 75 proposals to restrict women's access to reproductive health care since 2010. She urged legislators to stop making women's health care political.
"A woman who has decided to have an abortion should be treated with dignity and respect, not subjected to medically unnecessary rules and laws pushed by politicians who wish to shame and stigmatize women," Scholl said. "Women deserve no less than full autonomy over their healthcare and reproductive care decisions."
Participants in the news conference included NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, and Progress Virginia. They endorsed three pending bills involving women's health and birth control.
Introduced by Del. Jennifer B. Boysko, D-Herndon, the Whole Women's Health Act (HB 2186) provides that a woman has a fundamental right to a lawful abortion and forbids statutes that may place a burden on this access. The bill would eliminate all the procedures and processes, including the performance of an ultrasound, that are required for a woman's informed written consent to an abortion.
Del. Jeion A. Ward, D-Hampton, introduced the Patient Trust Act (HB 2286), which would allow women to waive their right to a mandatory waiting period before seeking an abortion.
"These bills recognize that after receiving medically appropriate counseling and information from a healthcare provider, it is not in a woman's best interest to force her to receive additional non-medical information," said Janice Kraft, director of policy and government affairs for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.
"Laws that require a woman to hear or receive information that she does not want or need and that her physician believes is irrelevant to her care, biased, misleading or outright false violate the basic tenets of informed consent and the standards of medical ethics," Kraft said.
The Birth Control Access Act (HB 2267), introduced by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax County, allows women to receive a full 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives at one time. The bill is expected to face opposition from insurance companies.
Dr. Wendy Klein, a Richmond physician, spoke on behalf of the bill as a clinician and scholar in women's health.
"As a physician, I can tell you that interruptions in birth control supply are a huge impediment to birth control actually working and preventing unintended pregnancies. That's why having the ability to pick up a full year's supply of hormonal contraceptives is such a big deal, and there's no medical reason to restrict access to it," Klein said.
According to a Pew research poll, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the age of 45 and 7 in 10 women support the right to have an abortion. The speakers urged members of the General Assembly to pass the bills as soon as possible.
"When a woman has to travel hours away from home, spend the night in a hotel, get childcare for her children, and lose hours at work, all to have an extremely safe, simple medical procedure, something is wrong," said Dr. Mark Ryan, a family practice doctor in Richmond.