By Mark Herring
February 19, 2013
Gov. Bob McDonnell is planning to attach an amendment to health care reform legislation that would severely restrict Virginia women's access to health care.
As part of President Barack Obama's health care reform act, Virginia is in the process of implementing a statewide health care exchange, where those without insurance can shop for appropriate and more affordable coverage.
However, instead of helping Virginians receive more affordable options, McDonnell seems more interested in using this opportunity to again attack women's health care coverage.
The governor's amendment would prohibit insurance providers in the exchange from offering policies that cover abortion - coverage that currently exists in almost 90 percent of private health care plans.
The ultimate goal of health care reform is improved access to critical medical services, including preventive care, mental health care and infant care. But if the governor gets his way, many Virginians will find themselves left without comprehensive coverage.
This extreme measure not only fails to improve women's health care coverage but will also rob women of the benefits they are currently able to purchase and possess through their private health care plans.
With less than a week until the end of the General Assembly session, McDonnell is once again injecting government into the personal medical decisions of women.
Taking away insurance coverage does not reduce the need for critical medical services. It only creates dangerous outcomes for Virginia women.
McDonnell's selective focus on women's health is not surprising, considering his and his Republican colleagues' sustained assault on women's rights. Their ideological attacks on reproductive health - including an invasive and unnecessary mandatory ultrasound requirement - made the state an embarrassment on late-night TV and turned Virginia into an instant object of ridicule and mockery.
Also troubling is the governor's interference in the private insurance industry. His extreme measure deals with private health care plans and has nothing to do with eliminating public funding for abortion.
The governor's amendment would restrict Virginians from purchasing a comprehensive insurance policy with their own private dollars - an unprecedented instance of government interference in the free market.
The Affordable Care Act has strict provisions to ensure that no public funds are spent on abortion, and Virginia law already prohibits public funding for abortion except in rare and life-threatening cases.
It is outrageous that McDonnell is continuing to play politics with the health of women. I strongly urge the governor to re-think his amendment and instead work to ensure that every Virginia woman has the comprehensive and accessible health care she needs.