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.
Virginia’s Governor continues to play politics with women’s health by amending HB 2434 to prohibit all insurance plans sold in Virginia under the new federal health care law from covering the cost of abortions. The amendment also prohibits insurance companies from selling optional riders to cover abortion for those who decide to pay for it separately. This means that women will be denied benefits that they are currently able to obtain through their private health insurance plans.
Abortion is a private personal decision that should be left to a woman and her partner in consultation with her doctor. It is not a decision for politicians to make. When a woman discovers something has gone wrong during her pregnancy, she should know that she can get safe, affordable medical care, including abortion.
Insurance companies already recognize the need to provide for every scenario a pregnant woman may face. That’s why the majority of plans currently provide coverage for abortion care, just as they do for other pregnancy-related services like labor and delivery, prenatal care and care for miscarriages. One of the primary reasons to have health insurance in the first place is to make sure we can get the health care we need when something unexpected happens.
While we may not all feel the same way about abortion, we should all agree that women and their families should have access to safe and affordable health services. Abortion is a legal medical procedure. It is wrong for our government to take away insurance coverage for a legal medical procedure just because some people oppose it. When insurance companies choose to cover abortion, politicians shouldn’t interfere.
The General Assembly reconvenes on April 6, 2011 to consider the Governor’s amendments.