By Miriam Stiefel, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Intern
Receiving a diagnosis that your fetus has an incapacitating physical or mental anomaly can be heart wrenching for a woman and her family. It’s something no woman should ever have to go through, but if, in consultation with her doctor, a woman decides to have an abortion, we should ensure that the woman’s ability to exercise this constitutional right is not contingent on the size of her bank account.
Unfortunately, the Virginia House of Delegates thinks otherwise – it removed funding for Medicaid-eligible women who seek an abortion after a physician certifies in writing that the woman’s fetus has an incapacitating physical or mental anomaly (and thus little or no chance at life).
This amendment places no restrictions on women who can afford to pay for their own abortion, and thus creates a two-tiered access system to a constitutionally protected right. In 2013, fourteen Medicaid-eligible Virginians received this funding, at a total cost to the Commonwealth of $13,058. We should not deny these women safe medical care simply for lack of personal resources. Yet, this is exactly what the House amendment would do.
Representatives from the House and Senate are currently in conference and will decide whether this harmful amendment should be included in the final budget.
Virginia has already banned funding for abortion in our state health exchange, so this House budget amendment places yet another burden on Virginia women already facing decreased access to medical care. Instead of improving the health and safety of women in Virginia, this budget amendment would constrict funding even more – hurting low-income women most.
No woman plans to have an abortion, but every woman, regardless of her income, deserves the opportunity to make the best decision for her circumstances. Women of Virginia should not be denied necessary healthcare because of their inability to pay.