By Katherine A. Greenier, Director, Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project, ACLU of Virginia
Last week, Governor Bob McDonnell amended Delegate Terry's Kilgore's HB 2434, which directed the Commonwealth to establish a health exchange in accordance with the federal health care legislation. The Governor’s amendment prohibits Virginia's health insurance exchange from covering abortion services, except in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother
Abortion is part of basic health care for women. For some that may seem like an odd thing to say.  Abortion has become such a hotly contested issue in this country that we’ve lost sight of the role abortion plays in women’s lives.  But if you stop and think about it, every woman’s situation is different and many things can go wrong in a pregnancy. Every woman deserves the opportunity to make the best decision for her circumstances, whether her decision is raising a child, adoption or abortion. No woman plans to have an abortion, but if she needs one, insurance should cover the procedure just as it covers all other pregnancy-related care.
By introducing the amendment to HB 2434, the Governor reopens the debate on an issue that has already been addressed in the General Assembly.  HB 2147 and SB 1202, bills to ban abortion coverage in health insurance plans, were introduced at the start of session and   received hearings during the legislative process. These measures would have taken away insurance coverage that millions of women currently have and made it difficult, if not impossible, for many women to take care of themselves and their families. Both bills were defeated.
Governor McDonnell is playing politics with women’s health by amending HB 2434. The bill not only prohibits all insurance plans sold in Virginia under the new federal health care law from covering the cost of abortions, but it  also prohibits insurance companies from selling optional riders to cover abortion for those who decide to pay for it separately.  This means that women will be denied benefits that they are currently able to obtain through their private health insurance plans.
Insurance companies already recognize the need to provide for every scenario a pregnant woman may face. That’s why the majority of plans currently provide coverage for abortion care, just as they do for other pregnancy-related services such as labor and delivery, prenatal care and care for miscarriages. One of the primary reasons to have health insurance in the first place is to make sure we can get the health care we need when something unexpected happens.
While we may not all feel the same way about abortion, we should all agree that women and their families should have access to safe and affordable health services. Abortion is a legal medical procedure. It is wrong for our government to take away insurance coverage for a legal medical procedure just because some people oppose it. When insurance companies choose to cover abortion, politicians shouldn’t interfere.
The General Assembly reconvenes on April 6, 2011 to consider the Governor’s amendments.
Take action today!  Urge your delegate and senator to oppose the Governor’s amendment banning abortion coverage in health insurance.