RICHMOND, VA—Today, the Virginia state senate passed Delegate Charniele Herring’s HB 980, the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA). The RHPA is a commonsense bill intended to roll back politically-motivated restrictions on access to abortion that have no basis in patient health and safety and only serve to eliminate access to safe, legal abortion care and shutdown health centers.  

Today, Virginia legislators in the state senate took a historic vote that is supported by the overwhelming majority of Virginians—79%—who believe that the decision to have an abortion should be made between a patient and their medical professional—not politicians. For over two decades, anti-choice legislators in Virginia have held control of the state House and Senate and passed a series of laws—including mandatory 24-hour waiting periods, forced medically unnecessary ultrasounds, and mandatory biased counseling—aimed to limit and hinder a person’s ability to access safe and legal abortion care.

The RHPA will roll back Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, that unfairly target and single out abortion providers from other medical professionals who also offer office-based procedures. The bill also gets rid of a restriction that blocks qualified medical professionals from providing abortion care early in pregnancy, despite their rigorous post-graduate training and extensive clinical experience, allowing patients to continue to seek care from their regular, trusted provider. 

The Reproductive Health Protection Act is expected to be heard next on the Virginia House floor later this week when legislators debate the identical Senate version, SB 733. 

“As women of color who have been fighting to dismantle restrictions on abortion care and who have mobilized community members in the fight for several years, we are ecstatic to see successful Senate passage of the Reproductive Health Protection Act today,” Margie Del Castillo with the Latina Institute for Reproductive Health-Virginia said. “Over 88% of Virginia Latino/a voters believe that someone should be able to make personal healthcare decisions about abortion without political interference and we are glad to see our elected officials agree.  Restrictions only hamper access to our overall reproductive health care needs and we are excited to see this through to the finish line.” 

“This is an enormous victory for Virginia voters who came out this past November and elected the first ever pro-choice majority General Assembly to protect their reproductive freedoms,” said Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.  “Elections have consequences. 79% of Virginians want politicians out of their personal reproductive healthcare decisions and they mean it. And this week, the Virginia state Senate delivered on that promise; to put the power back in the hands of Virginia women and give them the ability to make decisions that are best for them, and their families, free from political interference.”

“We’re thrilled that the Reproductive Health Protection Act is so close to becoming law. People in our community should be able to decide whether, how, and when to start a family, and access to abortion is a critical part of that puzzle,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “Many people across the Commonwealth have access to abortion in name only.  Eliminating these onerous restrictions will go a long way to ensuring that all of us, not just the wealthy few, have the ability to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families.” 

“Today, Virginia took one step closer to reproductive freedom for all,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. “For more than two decades, anti-choice legislators have passed bills that jeopardized the health and safety of Virginians. We are on the verge of a new era in the Commonwealth, one where patients no longer have to navigate medically unnecessary barriers in order to obtain safe and legal abortion care. Today is a great day for Virginia.”

Jamie Lockhart, Executive Director Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia said, “The Reproductive Health Protection Act has now been heard in various committees four times and we’re just one step away from the bill clearing the General Assembly. The successful passage today by the Senate and the House Courts Committee is a testament to the patrons, Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Senator Jennifer McClellan, and to all of the advocates who have made their voices heard during session. On behalf of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, we’re thrilled that the Commonwealth is close to removing these burdensome regulations on abortion care that are not based in health or safety, but an attempt to restrict access to critical health care.”

Background

The Reproductive Health Protection Act removes political interference between a patient and their doctor and gets rid of the medically unnecessary restrictions for a patient seeking access to safe and legal abortion including:

  • Requiring patients to undergo a forced, medically unnecessary ultrasound.
  • The 24-hour mandatory delay, which often stretches for far longer.
  • Mandated biased counseling. 
  • The requirement that abortion care is performed solely by physicians and blocks qualified nurse practitioners from doing so, despite their rigorous post-graduate training and extensive clinical experience.
  • The medically unnecessary targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) that regulate the number of parking spaces and the width of hallways for abortion clinics. 

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