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McDonnell’s Forced Ultrasound Bill Awakens a Sleeping Giant — Pro-Choice Virginians — and They Are Going to the Polls

5:14 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andy Kopsa for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Photo by Erik.

During this year’s General Assembly session, conservative state legislators and Governor McDonnell made their disdain for women’s autonomy and privacy obvious with a slate of bills designed to restrict access to reproductive health care, including the now-infamous mandatory ultrasound bill. With their new power in Richmond, anti-choice politicians thought 2012 was their premier opportunity to railroad these policies into law with little resistance. These lawmakers grossly underestimated the outrage their insidious attacks on women’s health would provoke in Virginia and across the nation. In fact, their agenda awakened the sleeping giant of pro-choice Virginians – the majority of citizens who believe the government should stay out of women’s private medical decisions and personal family choices. With this spring awakening will come retribution at the polls this fall and in fall 2013.

A new Quinnipiac University poll makes this clear. By a 52 to 41 percent margin, Virginians oppose the new mandatory ultrasound law signed by Governor McDonnell, which coerces doctors to perform and women to undergo the procedure before an abortion no matter what. What’s more, the poll revealed 72 percent of Virginians generally oppose laws that try to convince women seeking an abortion to change their minds. Regardless of their personal feelings on abortion, most people don’t think it’s the government’s place to interfere in their personal decision-making.

This poll adds to the overwhelming evidence we’ve seen this year that once people understand the true intrusive nature and insulting intention of anti-choice laws like ultrasound mandates, they oppose this sort of government invasion into their private lives. Governor McDonnell has tried throughout his time in office to hide his extremist conservative record and agenda on issues like reproductive health care, putting on a “moderate” face. We’ve always known the truth, however, and now Virginians are remembering the true McDonnell as well. His usually strong political armor has shown weakness, with his approval rating taking a 5-point plunge in the last month. The legislature’s approval rating has similarly dropped by 10 points.

I’ll admit that at the beginning of the session, with anti-choice legislators in control of the House and Senate, I thought it was a foregone conclusion that several of the many legislative attacks on reproductive rights would pass. I could never have predicted how this session would unfold.

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A “Kerfluffle” Over Forced Ultrasound? An Open Letter to Governor McDonnell

1:14 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Tara Casey for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

As a Virginia citizen, and especially as a woman and a mother of a daughter, I have voiced my opposition to the mandatory ultrasound bill.  Although I participated in the public protests to this legislation, I also sought to engage legislators and other constituents in discussions tempered with mutual respect and moderate voice.  When the Virginia Senate passed this bill, I expressed my profound disappointment in what I viewed as the misguided failure of our legislative process.  Nevertheless, I strove to maintain an open dialogue, free of platitudes and presumptions.

This evening, I learned that my Governor does not hold to the same rules in this debate.

Last Friday, Governor McDonnell sat down with National Review Online’s Jim Geraghty to discuss “the kerfuffle over the ultrasound bill.”  I recommend this piece to every Virginian to read as the Governor has used this platform to express his perspective.

Below are his words.  I would like to use this platform to share my responses:

“If you just read the papers, you have no idea what’s going on in the legislature because the reporting has been so poor this session.”

Governor, I have been there as a steadfast advocate and witness.  The reason people are outraged and protesting is that they have been paying attention, very close attention.  Sustained engagement in and educational outreach on the legislative process leading up this bill’s passage has been a civics lesson for many.  Please, do not blame the media for the response to this bill.

“I don’t think the objective of an abortion clinic is to try to talk women out of having the procedure. That obviously would not be positive for their bottom line.”

Governor, I encourage you to talk to a physician who has performed an abortion, because, based upon your comment, it would seem that you have not.  If you had, you would soon realize that “the bottom line” is not what motivates these physicians in practice.  To suggest otherwise would be an insult to their ethics and a gross mischaracterization.  Please, do not blame the physicians for what the legislature has done and your support for this bill.

“Despite the rhetoric of opponents, this was about empowering women with more medical and legal information that previously they were not required to get in order to give informed consent.”

Governor, Merriam-Webster has three definitions for “empower” – “to give official authority or legal power to; [to] enable; to promote the self-actualization or influence of.”  It defies basic comprehension of this word to deduce that a mandate represents empowerment.  In fact, this legislation thwarts any attempt at empowerment as it will interfere with a woman’s autonomous choice and assumes that her doctor would provide her insufficient information to make that choice.  The last time Virginia ever passed a mandated medical procedure was the forced sterilization of the mentally ill, a scenario in which there is no presence of empowerment.  Please, do not blame a misunderstanding of the word “empower” for your “kerfluffle.”

“Informed consent is required for every invasive medical procedure, from getting your ears pierced to having an abortion.”

Governor, even in an illustrative context, an abortion should not be placed on the same plane of medical procedures as an ear piercing.  Ears are pierced at kiosks in the mall.  Invasive medical procedures are performed by specially trained medical personnel in medical settings.  Your relation of an ear piercing to an abortion reveals either your complete insensitivity to this issue, or your complete ignorance.  Please do not blame a citizenry’s misunderstanding of this issue for this kerfuffle.

This is our Governor.  This is his perspective. 

Dear Reader, that is exactly what the “kerfuffle” is all about.

Why Insurance Coverage for Abortion Matters

7:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Katherine Greenier for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Late Tuesday night, on March 29, 2011, Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) handed down an amendment to Delegate Terry’s Kilgore’s HB 2434 bill, which directed the Commonwealth to establish a health exchange in accordance with the federal health care legislation. The Governor’s amendment will restrict Virginia’s health insurance exchange from covering abortion services, except in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

Abortion is part of basic health care for women. For some that may seem like an odd thing to say.  Abortion has become such a hotly contested issue in this country that we’ve lost sight of the role abortion plays in women’s lives.  But if you stop and think about it, every woman’s situation is different and many things can go wrong in a pregnancy. Every woman deserves the opportunity to make the best decision for her circumstances, whether her decision is raising a child, adoption or abortion. No woman plans to have an abortion, but if she needs one, insurance should cover the procedure just as it covers all other pregnancy related care. 

Unfortunately, some politicians have introduced legislation that would make it harder for women to access the health care they need.  These measures have been proposed throughout the country, including here in Virginia, to prevent insurance companies from covering abortion care.  By introducing the amendment to HB 2434, the Governor reopens the debate on an issue that has already been addressed in the General Assembly.  HB 2147 and SB 1202, bills to ban abortion coverage in health insurance plans, were introduced at the start of session and received hearings.  Both bills were defeated in the Senate Education and Health committee.  These measures would have taken, and the amendment to HB 2434 could take away insurance coverage that millions of women currently have and make it difficult if not impossible for many women to take care of themselves and their families. Read more