Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 22, 2021 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Virginia bishops opposed a bill allowing for taxpayer-funded abortion coverage that passed the state senate on Friday.
The bill, SB 1276, would permit abortion coverage for any reason in health insurance plans on Virginia’s taxpayer-funded health exchange. The bill was introduced on Jan. 12 and cleared a senate committee on Mon., January 18.
On Friday afternoon, the Senate approved the bill by a 20-17 vote along party lines—on the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond stated their “deep disappointment” with the vote.
“Abortion is not health care; it ends lives instead of healing them,” the bishops said.
“On this day when we reflect in particular on the more than 60 million unborn lives lost since the Roe v. Wade decision, and on every day, we continue to advocate with relentless determination for health care that affirms every life, born and unborn,” they stated.
Virginia set up a health exchange with the federal passage of the Affordable Care Act, allowing for citizens to shop for health plans on the state’s “marketplace.”
SB 1276 struck a phrase clarifying that health plans offered on Virginia’s exchange would not cover abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or when the physical health of the mother is at risk due to the pregnancy.
The state’s bishops had been outspoken against the bill. “Virginia should not subsidize abortion on demand with taxpayer funds,” Jeff Caruso, director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, told CNA on Friday prior to the vote.
“The exchange is taxpayer-funded. Taxes pay for managing the exchange, and for subsidizing health plans in many cases,” he said, explaining how the bill would subsidize abortion coverage.
Virginia’s state legislature passed an abortion bill in 2020 that allowed physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to perform abortions; it also struck down existing requirements that women be informed about the abortion procedure and receive ultrasounds before having an abortion, and deregulated safety standards at abortion clinics.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on April 11, Good Friday–an act which the state’s bishops called “a particular affront to all who profess the Gospel of life.”
A companion bill to SB 1276 is also being considered in the state house of delegates. The bishops called on delegates to vote against the bill.
The state’s consideration of taxpayer-funded abortion is taking place as the federal government is also considering repeals of pro-life protections against public funding of abortion.
The Biden administration is reportedly set to reverse the Mexico City Policy, which bars federal funding of foreign NGOs that perform or promote abortions.
House and Senate Democrats have also signaled a desire to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortions in spending bills. House Democrats passed a COVID relief bill last year without protections against taxpayer funding of abortions included, but the measure did not pass the Senate.
The Virginia bishops noted on Friday that the state’s current prohibition of coverage for abortion-on-demand in its exchange “is consistent with the federal Hyde Amendment, in place for more than four decades and which most Americans support.”
“Tragically, the Senate today took a far different path,” they said.
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