By Grant Smith
Capital News Service
In an 8-7 vote along party lines, a Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill to prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from funding Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill Monday.
The eight Republicans on the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted in favor of House Bill 1090; the panel's seven Democratic members voted against it.
HB 1090 states that the Health Department "shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed."
That means the state would cut off funds for organizations that offer abortions that are not eligible for matching funds under Medicaid. This would include any abortion outside of cases of rape, incest, or "gross fetal anomalies."
The bill has been amended so that it would not affect licensed hospitals that perform non-federally qualified abortions.
The bill's sponsor, Del. Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst, has said his bill would "defund Planned Parenthood and redirect funds to more comprehensive health care for women."
Dozens of supporters of Planned Parenthood attended the Senate committee meeting on Thursday to testify in opposition of HB 1090. The committee limited public comment and requested that individuals submit written testimony instead.
Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a nonprofit advocacy group, spoke out against the committee’s decision.
"No politician should decide for a woman which health care provider she can or cannot see, but today eight state senators decided they know better than women and their doctors," Scholl said.
The Virginia Department of Health does not fund abortions for any reason outside of the Medicaid exceptions. Supporters of Planned Parenthood say HB 1090 would effectively cut off state funding for its services such as family planning counseling, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
The House passed the bill on a 64-35 vote on Feb. 16. Afterward, Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, called on senators to reject it.
"This bill cannot become law," she said. "The intent of this bill is clear – to shame and coerce women from accessing safe and legal abortion and ban access to Planned Parenthood."
Here is how the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted Thursday on HB 1090
YEAS – Newman, Black, Carrico, Garrett, Cosgrove, Dunnavant, Chase, Suetterlein
NAYS – Saslaw, Lucas, Howell, Locke, Barker, Petersen, Lewis
Capital News Service is staffed by journalism students at Virginia Commonwealth University