Virginia: Vote on Abortion Funding in Obamacare on Wednesday

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2011   |   12:36PM   |   Washington, DC

Democrats in the Virginia state legislature will lead an effort on Wednesday to overturn Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to prohibit the state insurance exchanges created under Obamacare from paying for abortions with tax dollars.

Last week, McDonnell used the power of his office to add a line to a bill the legislature passed concerning the exchanges. When Congress passed and Obama signed the legislation for the federal government program, the bill contained numerous loopholes allowing for taxpayer funding of abortions under the law. However, it did contain a provision allowing states to opt out of using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions in their state exchanges.

McDonnell is taking advantage of that provision to add language to Delegate Terry Kilgore’s HB 2434 similar to a bill to ban the abortion funding that the legislature defeated during the session. The governor’s amendment restricts Virginia’s health insurance exchanges from covering abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, which conforms to federal law.

But,Del. Charniele Herring, a Democrat from Alexandria, claims, according to a Washington Examiner article, that the amendment is ideologically driven and “contrary to free market and free enterprise and the purpose of the bill.”

“The simple reality is that abortion is a legal medical service which is constitutionally protected,” Herring said in a letter to the governor.

The state House and Senate both needs a two-thirds majority vote to reject the governor’s pro-life amendment and, if they are successful, the bill becomes law without the amendment attached to it. Leading Virginia pro-life groups are already urging voters to call their state legislators urging support for the bill with McDonnell’s provisions included and McDonnell spokeswoman Taylor Thornley told the newspaper the governor is confident it will be retained.

“Gov. McDonnell is confident that the General Assembly will uphold his amendment to this important piece of legislation,” Thornley said.

Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, a Democrat from Fairfax, told the Examiner he thinks the bill with the provision will be approved on a close vote but failing to reach the two-thirds threshold to overturn it.

Victoria Cobb, the president of the Family Foundation, a pro-life group, told LifeNews she is delighted McDonnell moved to stop abortion funding.

“McDonnell handed down a pro-life amendment that The Family Foundation had been strongly urging,” she said. “Without a change like the Government’s amendment, pro-life citizens opposed to abortion will be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life.”

Cobb previewed the upcoming and past battles over abortion funding.

“Now, the General Assembly must accept the Governor’s amendment at next Wednesday’s veto session.  During this year’s General Assembly session, similar health insurance abortion funding opt-out language was passed by the House of Delegates twice with overwhelming majorities, but was defeated in the Senate,” she explained. “Actually, a procedural vote was taken at the end of session to strike a bill almost identical to the Government’s language, and the senate vote unfortunately fell 22-18 on party lines.  Since the Governor’s language is strictly a policy vote, not a procedural vote, we hope to urge at least two pro-life Democrats to support the amendment.”

“And that is really where the battle lies.  Regardless of what actions are taken by the Governor, the state Senate has been the body that has blocked nearly every pro-life effort for several years,” she said.

Senators Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian), Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville), Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), and Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) are seen as the senators who may be the key in deciding the vote.

ACTION: Contact members of the Virginia legislature by going to