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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

By Anita Kumar  |  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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Next: Despite a few losses, McDonnell claims success on most issues with one-day legislative session


Why don't you link in your story to the vote count so readers can see who voted how? It's online journalism 101.

Posted by: bob16 | April 22, 2010 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your comments. We usually do try to link to the bills and votes. The votes on these amendments were not available online when these blog posts were written tonight since it takes the clerks office time to get them on the Web.
They are available now. Here is the vote on the abortion amendment:

Anita Kumar

Posted by: anitakumar | April 22, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

So, all of you who voted for McDonnell because you thought he was a moderate. His campaign was about fixing the horrible roads in VA and improving the schools. Well, what has he spent his time on: anti-gay, anti-abortion and laws to let fools carry guns everywhere. This should remind all of us that there are no moderate Republicans left. McDonnell has done a 'bait and switch' on VA voters.

Posted by: kinsman_bob | April 22, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your response Ms. Kumar, and I appreciate the link to the Senate vote. I can't find the House vote on either the Assembly's LIS or at Richmond Sunlight.

As you know, the LIS is particularly cumbersome. Looking at the vote for HB 30, it seems impossible to figure out which vote was for this abortion amendment.

I am curious why The Post doesn't usually link to the votes. It seems a reader would want to know how his legislators voted. Wouldn't be a service to them for The Post to provide an easy link to that information? I understand that the LIS delay may make prvent you linking to that info. in time for your blog post, but certainly it could be a follow-up.

Bob Griendling

P.S. Does The Post allow html links in the comments section?

Posted by: bob16 | April 22, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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