RICHMOND, VA—Today, Virginia has made history! This afternoon, the Virginia House passed SB 733, the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA) on a vote of 53-45, following the state senate’s passage of HB 980 on Monday. The House and Senate versions of the bill are identical to one another, and they will now head to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. This major victory for Virginians will be the first-ever proactive bill on access to safe, legal abortion in Virginia’s history.
Today’s vote on the House floor was the final vote in the General Assembly before the Reproductive Health Protection Act goes to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk to be signed into law.
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 shame patients and limit their access to safe, legal abortion care.
For over two decades, anti-choice legislators controlled the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate. They used their power to introduce over 170 medically unnecessary, anti-reproductive freedom bills and passed several anti-abortion laws and regulations designed to stigmatize abortion and restrict patient’s ability to access safe, legal abortion care. The RHPA simply takes reproductive health decisions out of the hands of politicians and puts them back where they belong: with patients and the medical professionals they trust.
This legislation couldn’t have come at a more critical time. Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Gee vs June Medical Services, a case that will determine the fate of access to safe, legal abortion in this nation for generations to come, and could have alarming effects on if and how people around this country are able to access abortion care on the state level. And after decades of activism by supporters and members of the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition, today’s passage of the RHPA by the new pro-choice majority General Assembly marks the first major step to protect Virginians from challenges to safe, legal abortion access on the federal level.
“This is an enormous victory for the 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 today, the pro-choice majority General Assembly 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. This is more than a healthcare issue. This is an economic issue, a racial equity issue, and a family issue; and it’s about time that Virginia legislators supported every Virginian’s ability to determine their own destiny.”
“After years of hard work, abortion rights advocates and reproductive health champions have something to celebrate. We’re thrilled that legislators finally listened to the majority of Virginians who support expanding access to abortion across the Commonwealth and passed the Reproductive Health Protection Act,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “With the passage of the Reproductive Health Protection Act, people who have made the decision to have an abortion will no longer face medically unnecessary burdens to accessing the health care they need. Thanks to this bill, we’re one step closer to a Virginia where everyone in our community has the ability to decide whether, how, and when to start a family.”
“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 House 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.”
“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.”
“When this legislation goes into effect, Virginians will no longer have to navigate an obstacle course of delays and barriers in order to access a safe and legal abortion.” said Jamie Lockhart, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia knows that the individuals seeking reproductive health care across the Commonwealth, including abortion, deserve to do so with dignity and without delay. There is more work to do to ensure that the right to bodily autonomy is protected in Virginia, and we are proud of the work our champions have done so far, including today.”
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.