Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday vetoed anti-abortion legislation that would have cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood’s six Virginia health centers, which provide care to more than 22,000 men and women each year.
By Rachel Beatrice for Capital News Service
McAuliffe rejected House Bill 1090, a measure supported by Republicans to prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from funding groups that provide “non-federally qualified” abortions.
“This bill, aimed at Planned Parenthood, would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers by denying them access to affordable care,” the Democratic governor said in his veto message.
Sponsored by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, HB1090 would have prohibited the state from awarding contracts or grants to “any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”
The legislation would have ended state funding for organizations that provide abortions except in cases of rape, incest or fetal deformities. The bill would not have applied to licensed hospitals.
Planned Parenthood’s clinics provide a range of services, including family planning counseling, contraception, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as abortions. McAuliffe noted that the state contracts with Planned Parenthood to provide STD testing. The state does not provide any funding for non-federally qualified abortions.
Women’s rights activists applauded McAuliffe’s veto of HB 1090.
“Thank you, Gov. McAuliffe, for standing up for Virginia women,” said Progress Virginia executive director Anna Scholl. “These politically motivated attacks on women’s health must stop. Virginians should be terrified that the governor’s veto pen is the only thing standing between us and extreme attacks on women’s health care access.”
Since 2011, Scholl said, Virginia legislators have proposed more than 75 restrictions on women’s health. “Without a brick wall like Gov. McAuliffe to veto these outrageous proposals, Virginia could be a very different place.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and other organizations delivered petitions signed by more than 4,400 people urging McAuliffe to veto HB1090.
“I speak for the majority of women across Virginia when I say thank you to Gov. McAuliffe for this critical veto,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of the NARAL chapter. “In a time when our neighboring states are rolling back the clock on civil rights and reproductive freedom, we are fortunate to have a governor that is willing to stand firm in support of Virginia’s women and families.”
HB 1090 was approved along party lines on a 64-35 vote in the House of Delegates and a 21-19 vote in the Senate.
In a statement, Cline said, “I am disappointed that Gov. McAuliffe chose to veto this important legislation that would redirect taxpayer dollars toward more comprehensive providers of health care services for women. The governor is clearly listening to his friends in the abortion lobby, rather than ensuring that women have access to quality care.”
The Family Foundation of Virginia, which advocates applying a “biblical worldview and founding principles to culture and public policy,” also criticized McAuliffe’s veto.
“We now know how much money it costs to purchase a veto from Terry McAuliffe – right around $2 million in campaign contributions,” Victoria Cobb, the foundation’s president, said in a news release. “If there’s one issue on which Gov. McAuliffe has been ideologically rigid, it is his unwavering support and protection of the $1 billion abortion industry.”
In his veto message, McAuliffe said HB 1090 would have violated federal law. “Similar laws enacted in North Carolina and Texas were struck down by federal courts for this exact reason,” the governor said.
He also cited economic reasons for vetoing the bill.
“If we are going to build a new, more vibrant Virginia economy,” McAuliffe said, “we need to be opening up doors to quality, affordable health care, not closing them. I have promised to stand in the way of any and all attempts to interfere with a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”
The General Assembly reconvenes on April 20 to consider overriding the governor’s vetoes. That would require a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate. The Democrats have enough votes to prevent the assembly from overriding McAuliffe’s veto of HB 1090.