I was invited to attend a Power For Choice event on June 4 in Arlington, Va., hosted by Virginia NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League). I have been doing a little research for the event and what I have learned about anti-choice legislation in Virginia is disappointing at best and infuriating at worst. Much like many other states in the country, the anti-choice nonsense going on in Virginia just makes me say, “WTF?”
Most recently, in March, the governor of Virginia signed a bill that would impose further restrictions on abortion providers. The goal is to make abortions more and more difficult for providers and for women while still technically keeping abortion legal – but, it’s barely attainable. The bill that Governor McDonnell signed in March would require clinics that provide five or more first-trimester abortions to follow the standards of outpatient surgical centers rather than regular doctors’ offices. “Hey!” you might say, “That sounds great! Abortions should be safer!” Except it’s not done with women’s safety in mind, it’s done to make sure that the 21 abortion clinics in Virginia can’t comply with the regulations and will be shut down. The regulations have little to do with patient safety, but they do require that the number of parking spots available equal the number of beds and that hallways are wide enough for two gurneys to pass by each other. Those aren’t requirements that are necessary in an abortion clinic, since it’s an outpatient procedure.
But that’s not all. These are called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) laws and are intended to force abortion providers out of practice and make abortion inaccessible to women. Already in Virginia, women seeking abortion are subjected to counseling, which is state-mandated to refer to the embryo or fetus as an “unborn child.” And even after you’ve received that counseling, you still need to wait 24 hours to get an abortion. Virginia law prohibits insurance (private or Medicaid) from paying for abortions unless the woman’s life is in danger, the woman is pregnant as the result of a rape, or the fetus will have an incapacitating physical or mental deformity. Better get out those credit cards, ladies!
Want to try to avoid a pregnancy in the first place? Don’t go your local religiously-based hospital in Virginia; they’re not required to provide any information about family planning, from birth control to abortion. But if you manage to find information about birth control, don’t try to fill it at your local pharmacy; they are allowed to refuse to dispense it. And judge you. Oh, and if you’re under 18 and not married, your parents need to provide consent for you to get an abortion. But that will never apply to you, because Governor McDonnell applied for a grant for Virginia schools to provide abstinence-only education rather than comprehensive sex education. So you won’t be having sex and getting pregnant anyway! That’s how that works, right?
I don’t live in Virginia, but I was invited to cover the Power of Choice event hosted by NARAL Virginia, in Arlington on June 4, and I am looking forward to showing my support. Just because I live in a state that currently has comparatively lenient regulations regarding abortion and birth control doesn’t mean that I always will. Staying silent about the war against women I see going on in other states means that my state could be next, and my rights could be the next to be limited. It just doesn’t make sense to me to expect people to not learn the basics of sex and pregnancy (and STIs, and healthy relationships) in school, to not provide them with contraception, and then to refuse to provide access to safe and legal abortions for an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. And then to completely abandon women with no help or support once they have a child they were unprepared or unwilling to care for. All I can say is WTF and continue to show my support in the pro-choice movement.
We will be featuring a few more pieces on abortion and pro-choice, as well as a post about the Power for Choice event, in June. If you want more information, visit NARAL VA’s Power of Choice page here.