Virginia Governor Delivers ‘Smack Down,’ Vetoes Bill To Defund Planned Parenthood

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe CREDIT: AP PHOTO/STEVE HELBER
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe CREDIT: AP PHOTO/STEVE HELBER

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a Republican bill to defund Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, saying he was “very proud” to protect women’s health services in his state. The vetoed bill, which passed through the Virginia state legislature along party lines, would have ended the flow of state dollars to women’s health organizations that provide abortion services.

While visiting a Richmond Planned Parenthood office on Tuesday, Governor McAuliffe told members of a supportive audience that “we’re here today to smack down the latest attack on women’s health care rights.” As for the Republican lawmakers who worked to pass the bill, McAuliffe remarked that “they are out of touch with women, with health care providers and with Virginia families.”

McAuliffe’s veto comes as no surprise, as he has made clear over the past three months his intention to veto the Republican-backed initiative. In his veto statement, McAuliffe noted that “similar laws enacted in North Carolina and Texas were struck down by federal courts,” and that the legislation would serve to restrict access to quality, affordable health care.

If the bill had passed, the state health department would have no longer been able to fund any organizations that also perform abortions, except for hospitals. This measure was a direct attack on Planned Parenthood, which has come under increased national scrutiny after the release of highly doctored and inaccurate videos claiming Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from a fetal tissue donation program.


McAuliffe noted that if the bill had been signed into law, several community health programs run by Planned Parenthood would have been terminated, including the 500 STD tests the organization conducts each year at its Virginia offices.

While McAuliffe’s veto can be counted as a victory for Planned Parenthood, it stands in stark contrast to current state legislative trends nationwide. As the New York Times’ Editorial Board points out, 23 states have tried to cut Planned Parenthood funding since the video campaign against the group first surfaced last July.

Just yesterday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a draconian anti-abortion bill into law, stripping away funds for any clinic that offers abortion services, even if they provide women with crucial preventative measures. And last week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed into law a sweeping new anti-abortion bill that tightens Indiana’s already strict abortion regulations. The bill was considered so extreme that even many Republican lawmakers refused to support it.

In addition to facing state-level assaults, the movement for better access to abortion is currently being challenged in a blockbuster Supreme Court case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt, that may give states more legal cover to enact anti-abortion laws based on medically inaccurate information.

Bryan Dewan is an intern at ThinkProgress.