Va. Bill Would End Abortion Coverage for Low-Income Women When Fetus is Unlikely To Survive

January 18, 2013 — A Virginia senator has proposed a bill (SB 826) that would end state funding for abortions for low-income women when the fetus has severe anomalies, the American Independent reports.

The legislation, proposed by Sen. Tom Garrett (R), would repeal a provision of Virginia law that allows the state Board of Health to pay for abortions for women who are eligible for Medicaid if a physician certifies that "the fetus will be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or with a gross and totally incapacitating mental deficiency."

Lauri Kalanges, deputy director of Family Health Services, said three physicians are involved in the application process. First, a physician must submit a form on behalf of the woman explaining the medical situation and the fetus' likelihood of survival. For the funding to be approved, two physicians employed by the state Department of Health must review the application and agree that the fetus is not likely to survive.

According to Department of Health data, 58 applications for the funding were submitted between July 1, 2009, and Jan. 3, 2013, and 46 of them were approved.

In a press release, Garrett claimed the bill would align Virginia law with the federal Hyde Amendment, which only permits taxpayer funds to be used for abortion in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of a woman's life.

State Del. Jennifer McClellan (D) said the restrictions on abortion coverage under the Hyde Amendment strengthen the need for Virginia's current provision. "If you have private health insurance and you make that decision [to have an abortion], that's one thing," she said, adding, "If you're on Medicaid or you're a low-income person, you're on your own."

McClellan said women approached her during the last legislative session to tell her about ending wanted pregnancies because of fetal anomalies. She accused conservatives of putting "all [abortions] into the same black and white box" (Moore, American Independent, 1/16).