Va. Lawmakers Reportedly Consider 'Grand Bargain' on Abortion Legislation

January 15, 2013 — Virginia legislative leaders have met behind closed doors to discuss a "grand bargain" on abortion-related legislation, an anonymous Democratic aide told the Huffington Post. According to the aide, Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) and Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) met in early December to discuss the terms of the deal.

Under the supposed deal, Republican leadership would have one GOP lawmaker vote with the Democrats on any new piece of antiabortion-rights legislation to ensure it does not pass. In exchange, Democrats would not raise abortion-related issues in the media and drop efforts to repeal recently passed abortion restrictions.

Jeff Ryer, a spokesperson for Norment, said any claim about such a deal is "balderdash." He added, "Senator Norment never offered any deal or arrangement to any member of the Democratic caucus concerning the introduction of legislation related to abortion."

Sen. Ralph Northam (D) -- who introduced two bills (SB 1080, SB 1082) in the Senate to repeal the state's mandatory ultrasound law, which was approved in 2012 -- said he had heard about Republicans offering an abortion-related deal, but he did not believe "anything materialized from those discussions." Northam added that for him, any bargain would have to "start with repealing what [Republicans] did last year" (Bassett, Huffinton Post, 1/12).

Some GOP Members Quiet on Women's Issues; Five New Antiabortion Bills Introduced

Mentions of legislation targeting abortion and contraception coverage were noticeably absent in Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's (R) State of the Commonwealth speech on Wednesday, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. House GOP leaders also failed to mention the issues the next morning during a press conference (Lewis, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/13).

Despite the lack of public comments, Republican lawmakers introduced five new bills in the first few days of the 2013 legislative session that would restrict access to abortion and contraception (Huffington Post, 1/12).

Del. Bob Marshall (R) and Sen. Richard Black (R) co-sponsored three bills that were designed to undermine the federal contraceptive coverage rules. Two of the bills (HB 1314, HB 1315) would allow private companies to refuse to cover contraception in their employee health plans, while the third (HB 1417) would exempt state government and local government plans from offering the coverage (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/13).

Planned Parenthood PAC Criticizes AG Cuccinelli Over Contraception Comments

Planned Parenthood Virginia PAC on Friday criticized Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) for saying that going to jail would be an effective way to protest the contraceptive coverage rules, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Virginia PAC, said, "For women, access to affordable birth control is not a political issue -- it is an economic issue." She added, "Women don't turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. Politicians should not be involved in a woman's personal decisions about her birth control" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/11).