Shortly before 10 last night, Virginia joined the growing number of states that have adopted restrictions against abortion coverage within its state health exchange (to be created pursuant to the new federal health-care law). Via a 61-36 vote in the House and a 20-20 vote in the Senate (with the tie broken favorably by Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling), the Commonwealth joined Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Idaho in making use of a provision in the federal law that provides, “[A] state may elect to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an Exchange in such State if such State enacts a law to provide for such a prohibition.”
By banning coverage (within Virginia’s exchange) of abortions that have long been ineligible for federal funding in major health programs such as Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (that is, all abortions except for cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother), Governor McDonnell’s successfully adopted amendment now ensures that, as discussions on establishing a state exchange proceed, health plans seeking to be part of the exchange will be prohibited from covering abortion on demand.
Prohibiting abortion coverage within health exchanges (through which federal taxpayer money will be routed) has been a top priority of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, beginning during the debate on federal health care restructuring over a year ago and continuing after its passage in March of 2010. The Virginia Catholic Conference is encouraged by the Commonwealth’s important contribution yesterday to the ongoing national effort to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that people will not be forced to pay for other people’s abortions. With the addition of Virginia, at least 10 states now restrict abortion coverage in health insurance policies generally and/or in policies traded on exchanges.
Also last night, the General Assembly added funding to the state budget for abstinence programs. Governor McDonnell’s proposal to provide this money was the Conference’s other top priority (again in alliance with other groups) during yesterday’s one-day session and was approved by the House, 69-29, and by the Senate, 20-20 (with Bolling again casting the deciding vote to break the tie favorably).
The two 20-20 votes provide another example of how essential constituent input is. Large numbers of people throughout Virginia contacted their legislators in support of these pro-life, pro-family amendments and made a very considerable difference in the outcomes.
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