Youngkin vetoes bill protecting birth control access

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, left, addresses the crowd prior to signing the budget bill that was passed by both chambers at the Capitol Monday May. 13, 2024, in Richmond, Va. Senate Finance Committee Chairman, State Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, right, listens. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Michael O'Connor

May 21, 2024

“The governor has shown yet again how extreme the Republican Party in Virginia has become,” said Sen. Ghazala Hashmi on a call with reporters Monday.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has disappointed reproductive freedom supporters, but he did not surprise them.

Youngkin vetoed the last bills of the 2024 General Assembly session Friday, including closely watched legislation that would have provided legal protections for people’s right to access birth control.

In a statement explaining his veto, Youngkin insisted that he supports access to contraception, but claimed the legislation did not include protections for health care providers who object to birth control on religious grounds and undermines parental rights.

Youngkin’s words rang hollow to Democrats Del. Marcia S. “Cia” Price of Newport News and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi of Chesterfield, who sponsored identical versions of the bill in their respective legislative bodies. Youngkin had previously proposed amending their bills in a way Hashmi and Price felt gutted the legislation.

Pushing back on Youngkin’s veto statement, Hashmi said there are already religious protections for medical providers and the legislation would not require anybody to prescribe contraception if they have religious objections.

“The governor has shown yet again how extreme the Republican Party in Virginia has become,” Hashmi said on a call with reporters Monday. “Protecting the basic right to contraception, including birth control, condoms, and IUDs, is just a step too far for the Republican Party.”

Hashmi and Price vowed to reintroduce the birth control access legislation in the upcoming session in 2025 and if necessary in 2026, by which point Youngkin will be out of office. Virginia’s constitution prevents governors from serving more than one consecutive term.

Hashmi and Price introduced their bills after US Justice Clarence Thomas argued in 2022 that the US Supreme court “should reconsider” the federal right to contraception in a judicial opinion published alongside the bombshell ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and took away the constitutional right to an abortion.

The curtailing of abortion rights emboldened an ongoing wave of conservative attacks on similar reproductive and health care rights. Just this month, a Republican-controlled committee in Louisiana rejected a bill that would have allowed for abortion in cases of rape and incest. And in vitro fertilization has come under threat with the Alabama Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that frozen embryos should be considered children. A similar case is also working its way through the courts in Texas.

Reproductive rights advocates want the public to understand that, beyond family planning, people rely on contraception to be healthy, and any restrictions on it puts lives in danger. Price noted she would not be able to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates without the contraception she uses to treat her polycystic ovarian syndrome.

“Maybe that’s exactly what (Youngkin) and his friends want: for people like me to be silenced and stuck in bed,” Price said.

Virginia is the only remaining southern state that hasn’t passed or implemented an abortion ban since Roe was overturned, but advocates say Youngkin’s vetoes show that reproductive rights in the state cannot be taken for granted.

A coalition is working to amend Virginia’s state constitution to include the right to an abortion, an uphill climb that requires approval by the General Assembly twice and a successful referendum at the ballot box. At least six other states have added constitutional amendments on abortion access since the Supreme Court took away the right at the federal level.

Most Americans support access to abortions, with 63% saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center. And three in four say it should be easier to access birth control pills, according to the progressive polling company Navigator.

Even so, Trump-aligned politicians want to target contraception the same way they did abortion, said Rep. Jennifer McClellan, who represents Virginia’s 4th District in Congress.

“Let’s be clear, Trump and MAGA Republicans will stop at nothing in their efforts to completely strip away the reproductive freedom of women across the country,” McClellan said. “But we can stop them by re-electing President Biden and Vice President Harris.”

 

  • 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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