This month, the Virginia General Assembly voted to pass the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA) (HB980/SB733), 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 in Virginia.
For over two decades, anti-abortion legislators controlled the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate. In the last decade alone, they used their power to introduce over 170 medically unnecessary, anti-reproductive freedom bills and passed several anti-abortion laws and regulations designed to shame patients and restrict their access to safe, legal abortion. The RHPA simply takes reproductive health decisions out of the hands of politicians and puts them back where they belong – with patients and their medical professionals.
A new Public Policy Polling survey from January 2020 found that 79% of Virginia voters support access to safe, legal abortion care, and believe that politicians should not prevent a woman from making her own personal healthcare decisions.
However, there has been some misinformation about what this bill means for Virginians and abortion generally. The Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition is setting the record straight about what the RHPA actually does to address the common myths opponents of abortion may use to perpetuate fear and mistrust about the Reproductive Health Protection Act.
FACT: The RHPA is commonsense legislation that simply overturns medically unnecessary abortion restrictions.
- TRAP restrictions, the forced ultrasound requirement, state based biased-counseling, and bans on trained medical professionals providing care within their scope of practice are unnecessary restrictions that have no basis in patient health and safety.
- National and international medical organizations have denounced many of these restrictions due to their negative impact on the provision of high quality reproductive healthcare.
- The RHPA overturns restrictions on abortion care put in place by anti-choice politicians in recent years. Most of the restrictions that the RHPA rolls back were enacted as recently as 2011.
FACT: The RHPA removes barriers to care that disproportionately impact low income women, women of color, and rural women.
- The RHPA rolls back restrictions such as the 24-hour waiting period, which forces patients to take time off from work and suffer lost wages, find affordable childcare, and pay for transportation and potential hotel costs.
- By allowing nurse practitioners to provide abortion care early in pregnancy, which is in their scope of practice, we enable rural patients to access reproductive healthcare services from their trusted medical professionals.
- 92% of Virginia counties have no abortion care clinic and by overturning the ban on nurse practitioners providing this care, we can protect safe, legal abortion access from a medical professional in their community.
FACT: The RHPA removes medically unnecessary TRAP restrictions.
- Abortion providers are already and will remain subject to the same laws, regulations, and professional standards as other similarly situated medical facilities performing similar and riskier procedures such as colonoscopies, biopsies and dental surgery.
- Restrictions that require abortion clinics, and not other similarly situated medical facilities, to have a certain number of parking spaces or hallways of a given width clearly have nothing to do with patient health and safety and are solely intended to shut down abortion clinics in our Commonwealth.
FACT: The RHPA allows medical professionals to decide when an ultrasound is necessary during care.
- The Reproductive Health Protection Act would not ban ultrasounds for a patient having an abortion but instead allows medical professionals to deem when an ultrasound is medically necessary rather than forcing one upon every patient.
- Forcing a patient to undergo an unnecessary ultrasound, against their wishes and against the wishes of their medical professional, is shaming, demeaning, and intimidating.
- A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), an evidence-based, nonpartisan, scientific research group, concludes that abortion is safe and that there is no direct evidence that ultrasounds improve the safety or effectiveness of the procedure.
- NASEM’s research concludes that mandating unnecessary services such as forced ultrasounds, which delay care, are one of the factors that limit effective care, therefore making it counterproductive to patient health and safety.
FACT: Virginia still maintains medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy.
- The Reproductive Health Protection Act does not address, or even impact, abortion later in pregnancy, but rather rolls back restrictions on abortion early in pregnancy and respects a patient’s ability to make their own personal reproductive healthcare decisions, free from political interference.
FACT: Virginia still maintains medically unnecessary parental consent laws.
- The Reproductive Health Protection Act does not address or impact Virginia’s medically unnecessary and unfair parental consent regulations. What the RHPA does is roll back restrictions on abortion early in pregnancy and respects a patient’s ability to make their own personal reproductive healthcare decisions, free from political interference.
In conclusion, the Reproductive Health Protection Act is popular, commonsense legislation that rolls back restrictions to abortion care that are not based in patient health and safety, by removing the political interference between a patient and their medical professional and thereby restoring the integrity of the patient-provider relationship.