With party line vote, Senate Republicans kill critical women’s’ equality legislation

Richmond, VA – This afternoon, the Virginia Senate committee on Commerce and Labor defeated critical bills to secure economic opportunity, equality & access to health care for Virginia women.

SB. 221, sponsored by Senator McEachin, would have ensured Virginia women receive equal pay for equal work. SB. 183, also sponsored by Senator McEachin, would have overturned the current ban on abortion insurance coverage from being offered or purchased through the Virginia state health care exchange. Both bills were priorities for theVirginia Women’s Equality Coalition, a diverse group of organizations dedicated to ensuring that Virginia women and girls have equal opportunity to participate fully in civic, economic, and political life.

Members of the Virginia Women’s Equality Coalition condemned the defeat of equal pay legislation:

“The failure of Senate Bill 221 to ensure equal pay for Virginia’s women and men denies us the economic and employment parity we deserve,” said Candace Graham, co-founder of Women-Matter of Virginia. “Amanda Atrash, President of I Am That Girl and member of Women-Matter- VCU Chapter, notes that she pays the same tuition as the male students, yet she faces an 8 – 12 percent deficit in her earning potential when she graduates, a deficit which only gets wider as she gets older.That deficit will impact her ability to pay back her student loans and it will lessen her Social Security retirement income. She will be deeply disappointed by the failure of this bill.”

“The American Association of University Women (AAUW) of Virginia believes that gender pay equity and equal opportunity are matters of simple fairness,” said Patsy Quick, Co-President of the AAUW of Virginia. “Apparently, the members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor think otherwise. In voting against SB 221, they voted against equal pay for equal work irrespective of sex. The message to Virginia women is loud and clear: our lawmakers in Richmond do not consider us 1st-class citizens. The gender pay gap is real, and it’s about time our lawmakers in Richmond got real about addressing it.”

Coalition partners also responded to the defeat of Senator McEachin’s abortion coverage ban repeal:

“Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia is disappointed in today’s vote refusing to lift the ban on abortion coverage in health insurance exchange plans,” said Cianti Stewart Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “Virginia continues to find itself in bad company by refusing to allow women to use their own dollars to purchase the health insurance they need which covers the full range of reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion. Private, personal health care decisions, including the purchase and use of health insurance, should be between a woman, her family, and her doctor– not politicians.”

“Every Virginian should have access to quality, affordable health care — regardless of their income, zip code, or type of insurance,” added Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “When a woman needs to end her pregnancy, it is critical that she has access to safe medical care. Providing insurance coverage ensures she will be able to see a licensed, quality health care provider, and can access the care she needs. Furthermore, bans like this fall hardest on low-income women and women of color who already face barriers to high-quality health care. Virginia women deserve better.”

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Contact: Alena Yarmosky, alena@naralva.org, (240-595-2972)

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