Now, legislators are continuing their assault on women’s access to abortion with HB 62, a measure that would prevent Medicaid from covering abortions for low-income women when a doctor finds that the fetus “would be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency.” A Senate committee approved the House bill Thursday, sending it to the full chamber. The House already passed the bill.
The bill’s sponsor Del. Mark Cole (R) dismissed criticism that the policy could force the state’s poorest women to give birth to mortally deformed fetuses that have no chance of survival after delivery, arguing that religious people shouldn’t have to fund abortions:
“Why should the most vulnerable women in Virginia be forced to carry a doomed pregnancy to term,” Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, angrily asked Cole.
Cole is backed by advocates from anti-abortion and religious groups including the Virginia Roman Catholic Diocese. He contends that it’s unjust to force people with strong religious or moral objections to the procedure to pay taxes that underwrite publicly funded abortions.
“We’re not going to force the taxpayers, many of them who think it’s immoral … to pay for that abortion,” Cole said. His bill, like current federal policy, would allow public funds in Virginia to pay for abortions only in cases of rape, incest or pregnancies that imperil a woman’s life.
After the House approved the bill, Del. Charniele Herring (D) said that if HB 62 passes the legislature and is signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), then “Virginia will show itself as a state that lacks compassion for the poorest women among us. It is time to stop beating up on the poor and destroying our safety net.” The Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition tried to make the same argument yesterday to the Senate committee. According to the group’s statement, “HB 62 will leave low-income women in Virginia with no options for a pregnancy that has gone tragically wrong.”