Virginia Limits Abortion Coverage

Lawmakers in Virginia have approved an amendment that would ban private insurance plans from covering abortions if they participate in the commonwealth's health care exchange. Virginia thus joins at least seven other states that have passed bans on coverage of abortion in state health care exchanges. Over the weekend, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell had quietly amended a bill that outlined how Virginia would create a health exchange, inserting a provision that barring participating insurance companies from covering abortions except when the mother's life is in danger or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the states must set up health benefit exchanges by 2014, allowing individuals and small businesses to pool their buying power and choose coverage plans offered by private insurers. While Federal law prohibits Federal funding for abortions, the new law allows plans in the exchanges to cover abortions as long as they collect a separate premium from policy holders and that money is kept apart from Federal subsidies.

Increasingly however, Republican controlled legislatures are adding restrictions that would prevent insurance companies from offering any coverage of abortion. Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee passed bans last year after the federal legislation was approved, and at least 20 states are considering doing the same. 

In response to Governor McDonnell's assault on the reproductive freedom of women in the commonwealth, Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia said "It flies in the face of free market principles and limited government, which is what the governor always says he supports." Perhaps but we all know that when it comes to our sex lives, the GOP jettisons its so called principles.

And yet despite this rather severe restriction on reproductive freedom, religious conservatives believe that the bill does not go far enough. The Washington Post has some more background on the debate in Virginia.

Governor McDonnell is also on a bit of roll. He also restored nearly $1 million in abstinence-only educational funding that legislators had stripped out of his proposed budget and he is working to kill a proposal that would for the first time allow gay couples to adopt children in Virginia saying he thinks that the current nondiscrimination regulations are “proper,” but should not be expanded to “inhibit the very fine work some faith-based organizations are doing.”

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