A professional medical organization and the Virginia Board of Health are uneasy about language in the proposed budget that they say will essentially eviscerate a newly launched, two-year pilot program that provides low-income women with contraception.
The Virginia section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, has written a letter to the governor asking him to veto or amend the language, and last week the state Board of Health unanimously voted to do the same.
The language spilled over from a debate last year in which anti-abortion groups vehemently opposed $6 million in the budget devoted to funding the program.
The pilot program pays for long-acting reversible contraception, or LARCs, a category that includes intrauterine devices and implants, for women who make 250 percent or less of the federal poverty level (about $51,950 for a family of three).
LARCs can last years and are widely considered the safest and most effective form of birth control. According to the Virginia Department of Health, expected outcomes of the program include reduced rates of unintended pregnancies and abortions.
Twelve providers were approved to participate in the program, including the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia health systems, among others.
The amendment added to this year’s proposed budget by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, essentially changes the program’s funding to ensure the state is only paying for LARCs, she said.