Youngkin won’t add legal protections for birth control access

Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) gives remarks April 4 in Richmond urging Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to sign legislation that would legally protect the right to contraception in Virginia. Courtesy of Office of Senator Ghazala F. Hashmi

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By Michael O'Connor

April 11, 2024

The Republican governor claims to support access to contraception but stops short of embracing making it a legal right in Virginia.

Birth control missed out on some extra protection this week in Virginia, where Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has blocked a number of reproductive health care measures.

Youngkin proposed amending a bill that would give Virginians a legal right to contraception like condoms, birth control pills, and IUDs. Had Youngkin signed Senate Bill 237 into law, it would have given people legal protection to access and use these kinds of birth control. People can do so now, but advocates of the bill believe extra legal cover is necessary given the attacks on reproductive rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade in states like Alabama and Florida.

Instead, Youngkin has proposed an amendment that backers of the contraception bill say completely undermine its intent and would effectively make protecting access to birth control a suggestion rather than a legal right.

“Governor Youngkin had an opportunity to break with extremists in his party and stand with Virginians by signing the Right to Contraception Act,” said Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter. “Instead he chose to gut the legislation.”

According to a statement shared by Youngkin press secretary, Christian Martinez, the governor supports access to contraception but also wants to protect constitutional rights.

This is an opportunity to do both and to suggest that the Governor doesn’t support access to contraception would be wholeheartedly misrepresenting the facts,” Martinez said.

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly reconvenes April 17 in Richmond to consider Youngkin’s legislative and budget amendments.

Broader fight

The move to stymie the contraception bill is in keeping with other actions taken by Youngkin to block expanding reproductive rights and freedom in Virginia.

Youngkin vetoed bills that would have protected doctors and patients for abortions performed legally in Virginia, and he proposed a budget amendment that would end state funding of abortions for severe fetal abnormalities.

Even as Democrats and advocates vented their frustrations with Youngkin’s blocking of so many reproductive health measures, they acknowledged the governor did surprise them in one instance. Youngkin signed into law legislation that blocks the issuance of search warrants, subpoenas or court orders for electronic or digital menstrual health data – a measure he opposed last year.

While there is plenty of work to be done to shore up reproductive rights in Virginia, the state is a central access point for reproductive care in the U.S., particularly in the South, Tarina Keene, executive director of REPRO Rising Virginia, said in an interview.

Keene said Virginia has actually increased access to abortion care in the wake of the Dobbs decision: three abortion clinics have opened in Virginia since Dobbs and another one is planned to open this summer.

Still, work remains to improve access to reproductive health care, which is why Keene is part of a coalition planning to introduce in 2025 a constitutional amendment that guarantees people the right to an abortion in Virginia.

“Until something is taken care of at the federal level this fight will continue to be in the states,” Keene said.

  • Michael O'Connor

    Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering Virginia news since 2013 with reporting stints at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia Business, and Richmond BizSense. A graduate of William & Mary and Northern Virginia Community College, he also covered financial news for S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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