Va. legislature votes to restrict abortion funding
Gov. Bob McDonnell scored a victory tonight when the General Assembly voted to restrict state aid for certain types of abortions.
As expected the Republican-controlled House passed the measure overwhemingly. The Democratic-led Senate voted 20-19.
The amendment to the state budget proposed by McDonnell would limit state funding for abortions to those performed in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. Nothing in state law had previously banned Medicaid-funded abortions in instances when the health of the mother was in jeopardy.
McDonnell, a Catholic who has long opposed abortion and who had been lobbied since taking office by social conservatives to restrict funding for the procedure. He argued that his proposal would bring Virginia into line with federal law on the issue, recently restated by an executive order signed by President Obama.
"Tonight, the Commonwealth of Virginia finally joined the majority of states in protecting taxpayers from paying for discretionary abortions,'' said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia. "With all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by pro abortion advocates, the truth is that their doomsday scenarios have not caused thirty three other states to change their longstanding policies that are simply aligned with federal law."
Abortion rights supporters said they thought the amendment would have far broader impact, affecting state employees seeking abortions under their state health plans. They said they thought it would restrict all abortions at public hospitals, except a tiny number performed for Medicaid patients in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
"You all here know me well enough,'' Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax). "I wouldn't vote for this amendment no matter how its drafted. But it's drafted poorly. It's going to have huge impacts that were not intended, even by the governor and the governor's advisors."
Those arguments were rejected by three conservative Democrats in the senate, where their party holds a two-vote majority, as well as all of 17 of the chamber's Republicans who were present. The Democrats were Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) and Sen. William Roscoe Reynolds (D-Franklin).
"This is much ado about a simple measure," said Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg). "This simply says that state funding will be used only for certain categories of abortion...but that it's not going to be used more expansively."
The drama surrounding the close senate vote was heightened because the senate's tie-breaking vote, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), was absent, stranded in Italy after a Tuesday flight home to Virginia was canceled because of ash spewing from the Icelandic volcano. Bolling had been attending an economic development conference in Florence.
Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
April 21, 2010; 9:34 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate
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