Virginia Senate Votes to Allow Taxpayer-Funded Abortion Coverage
A bill that would allow taxpayer-funded abortion passed the Virginia Senate on Friday.
The bill, S.B. 1276, would permit abortion coverage for any reason in health-insurance plans on Virginia’s taxpayer-funded health exchange. The bill was introduced on Jan. 12 and cleared a senate committee on Monday.
On Friday afternoon — the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide — the state Senate approved the bill by a 20-17 vote along party lines.
The state’s bishops have been outspoken against the bill. “Virginia should not subsidize abortion on demand with taxpayer funds,” Jeff Caruso, director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, told CNA on Friday before the vote.
“The exchange is taxpayer-funded. Taxes pay for managing the exchange and for subsidizing health plans in many cases,” he said, explaining how the bill would subsidize abortion coverage.
Caruso said that the conference has “been urging and continue to urge” the members of the Virginia Senate to “reject this dangerous bill that would tragically result in more abortions.”
S.B. 1276 struck a phrase clarifying that health plans offered on the exchange would not cover abortions except in cases of rape or incest or when the physical health of the mother is at risk due to the pregnancy.
The Virginia Legislature passed an abortion bill in 2020 that allowed physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to perform abortions; it also struck down existing requirements that women be informed about the abortion procedure and receive ultrasounds before having an abortion and deregulated safety standards at abortion facilities.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on April 11, Good Friday — an act that the state’s bishops called “a particular affront to all who profess the gospel of life.”
A companion bill to S.B. 1276 is also being considered in the state House of Delegates.
The state’s consideration of taxpayer-funded abortion is taking place as the federal government is also considering repeals of pro-life protections against public funding of abortion.
The Biden administration is reportedly set to reverse the Mexico City Policy, which bars federal funding of foreign NGOs that perform or promote abortions.
U.S. House and Senate Democrats have also signaled a desire to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortions in spending bills. House Democrats passed a COVID relief bill last year without protections against taxpayer funding of abortions included, but the measure did not pass the Senate.
Virginia bishops oppose the bill.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond stated their “deep disappointment” with the vote.
“Abortion is not health care; it ends lives instead of healing them,” the bishops said.
“On this day when we reflect in particular on the more than 60 million unborn lives lost since the Roe v. Wade decision, and on every day, we continue to advocate with relentless determination for health care that affirms every life, born and unborn,” they stated.
The bishops called on state delegates to vote against the bill.
The Virginia bishops noted on Friday that the state’s current prohibition of coverage for abortion on demand in its exchange “is consistent with the federal Hyde Amendment, in place for more than four decades and which most Americans support.”
They said, “Tragically, the Senate today took a far different path.”