Richmond, Virginia – Today, the Reproductive Health Protection Act officially became law in Virginia. After years of forcing patients to confront politically-motivated, medically unnecessary barriers to accessing abortion care, our Commonwealth is finally a place that respects the reproductive rights of all Virginians. At long last, reproductive healthcare decisions have been  taken out of the hands of politicians and placed back where they belong: with patients and their trusted medical providers.

The Reproductive Health Protection Act is historic not only for the beneficial impact that it will have on generations of Virginians but also for being the first ever proactive abortion rights legislation to go into effect both in our Commonwealth and in any state in the Southern United States. This landmark legislation marks the start of a new era for reproductive freedom, and is a vital first step to safeguarding the right and ability of everyone to be able to access safe, legal abortion care.

Notably, this legislation is going into effect at a time when the country is facing an unprecedented public health crisis, and people need access to essential reproductive healthcare. In other states, some anti-choice politicians are attempting to delay or ban access to abortion by shutting down clinics. We in Virginia know that in times like these, patients need access to time-sensitive, comprehensive reproductive healthcare now, more than ever. Abortion care is essential care and we should be dismantling barriers to care, not building them.

During the past few months, we have also been battling another public health crisis in our nation: racism. We know that there can be no reproductive justice until everyone has access to safe, legal abortion care and that we have so much work to do to dismantle systemic racism, including implicit bias in the nation’s health care system that too often blocks members of the Black community from being able to access high-quality healthcare. In order to address these racial inequities, our work must reaffirm our commitment to dismantling the culture of white supremacy, eradicating racial disparities, and affirming the inherent dignity of every human being. While the Reproductive Health Protection Act will go a long way toward breaking down barriers to accessing healthcare for all Virginians, this is only a first step on the journey to ensuring that access to safe, legal abortion care is a reality for all.

While Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo was a win for the reproductive freedom movement, it is but a temporary victory that will likely incite anti-abortion politicians to enact even stricter anti-freedom and anti-healthcare restrictions. We cannot let that happen. Instead, state legislatures like Virginia which are in a strong position to lead, must continue to safeguard access to abortion care to protect and expand reproductive freedom, regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court level.

The Reproductive Health Protection Act eliminates burdensome restrictions on abortion access like the mandatory 24-hour waiting period and two-visit requirement before a patient can access an abortion. It also gets rid of the targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) that regulated the number of water fountains and the number of parking spaces abortion clinics were required to have. These unconstitutional restrictions were designed to shut down clinics and limit access to abortion. Starting this month, Virginians will be one step closer to being able to access the abortion care they need, when they need it, without politically-motivated restrictions.

“Abortion care is essential health care. We’re thrilled that in a time when other states are further restricting access to vital medical services like abortion due to Coronavirus, Virginia is leading the way to become a safe haven for abortion access in the South,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “Everyone in our community should be able to decide whether, how, and when to start a family, and having access to abortion is a critical part of making that a reality for everyone.”

“Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive healthcare and the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA) is the first step toward securing a future that safeguards access to abortion care and upholds basic rights and freedoms here in Virginia,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “In a moment when our country is facing some of the toughest challenges of our time, an unprecedented public health crisis and addressing systemic racism— Virginia is able to continue moving forward with real solutions that will give people access to the tools they need to be able to receive timely, compassionate, reproductive healthcare services, and finally have the ability to make decisions that are best for them, their families and their futures without interference from politicians.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed stress on every aspect of the health care system, including providers of reproductive health care, and has highlighted how the medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion have a negative impact on patients and providers,” said Jamie Lockhart, Executive Director Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “Requiring an additional, medically unnecessary visit prior to a patient having an abortion was unnecessary in normal times and callous and dangerous in a pandemic. When a Virginian makes the decision to have an abortion, they need access to high-quality, compassionate health care without politically-motivated obstacles in their way. While we celebrate the removal of years of politically motivated restrictions on abortion access, we also recommit to continue the fight until every person in Virginia has access to the compassionate reproductive and sexual health care they deserve.”

“Today marks a new era in the Commonwealth, one where Virginians no longer must navigate medically unnecessary barriers in order to obtain safe and legal abortion care. People deserve access to abortion without delay in any circumstance. This paves the way for a new era of compassionate abortion care for our patients that we have the privilege to serve. We thank everyone who made the passage of the Reproductive Health Protection Act.”  President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health of Charlottesville and Whole Woman’s Health and Family Center in Alexandria.

Background:

In the age of Coronavirus, abortion care is both essential and time-sensitive. The Reproductive Protection Act ensures that people can access the care they need without unnecessary delays.

The Reproductive Health Protection Act removes political interference between a patient and her medical professional 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 which blocks qualified nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives 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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