February 7, 2014 — A Virginia Senate committee on Thursday approved two bills (SB 617, SB 618) that would repeal some of the state's abortion restrictions, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Both votes fell along party lines, with the bills' Democratic supporters prevailing.
The two bills, proposed by Sen. Mamie Locke (D), would rescind the state's mandatory ultrasound law and would allow private health plans sold through the state's health insurance exchange to offer abortion coverage. Last year, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) used a legislative amendment to bar such plans from covering abortions in nearly all circumstances (Walker, Virginian-Pilot, 2/7).
The ultrasound repeal bill has support from abortion-rights groups, such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, as well as the Medical Society of Virginia and Progress Virginia, which say the state should not interfere in the doctor-patient relationship. Newly elected Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) also supports the bill.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Family Foundation, the Virginia Society for Human Life and the Virginia Catholic Conference spoke against the bill. They said mandatory ultrasounds help women make informed decisions.
State Power Shift
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the votes are "largely symbolic" because the proposals are unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled state House.
However, they show that the 2013 Virginia elections had consequences for the GOP, which had controlled both the House and Senate for the previous two years (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/7).