Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2021 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Virginia’s governor on Friday signed a bill into law expanding abortion coverage in the state, prompting a rebuke from the state’s bishops.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed the legislation, House Bill 1896 and Senate Bill 1276, which allows abortion coverage to be included without limits in health plans on the state exchanges. The health plans often receive subsidies, which means that taxpayers would be funding abortions under the law.

“Governor Northam has crossed yet another tragic threshold by inserting abortion without limits into Virginia’s health benefits exchange,” stated Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond on Friday.

“We decry the enactment of this deplorable policy, which is built on the destructive lie that abortion is healthcare,” they stated. “We are saddened when we contemplate the increased number of unborn lives likely to be lost as a result.”

The state house and senate passed the legislation in January in February, repealing a previous ban on abortion coverage on the exchange. Beginning July 1, health plans in the state will cover abortions for any reason.

The repeal of the abortion coverage ban was introduced by Del. Sally Hudson in the state house, and Sen. Jennifer McClellan in the state senate.

“In many cases, people receive public subsidies to purchase these plans,” the bishops noted, adding that “taxpayers will be forced to fund plans that cover abortion on demand.”

The legislation was one of 80 bills that Northam signed into law on Friday, according to AP. Other bills included foreclosure protections for homeowners and student financial aid to undocumented immigrants, WSET reported.

Health plans on Virginia’s exchange—set up after the Affordable Care Act—had previously not included abortion coverage, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk due to the pregnancy.

“Without despair, and with maximum determination, we will continue our advocacy for the preeminent priority of protecting unborn children from this threat,” the bishops stated. “So many lives, who have no voice except ours, depend on it.”

On Good Friday in 2020, Northam signed a bill into law that repealed some state restrictions on abortion, allowing physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to perform abortions. The bishops called the circumstances of his signing the bill on Good Friday “a particular affront to all who profess the Gospel of life.”

Northam also was a subject of national controversy in 2019, when he attempted to defend a state bill legalizing some third-trimester abortions by describing the practice of infanticide. The bill’s sponsor had admitted that nothing in her bill would prevent an abortion from being performed while the mother was in active labor.

Northam said that in such a case under the bill, if a baby was sufficiently disabled and was delivered alive, a “conversation” would ensue between the mother and doctor as to whether the baby would be resuscitated, while the baby would be “kept comfortable.”

The state legislature has also passed a repeal of the state’s death penalty in 2021, and is considering a repeal of conscience protections for faith-based adoption agencies.

The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that was signed into law by President Biden on Thursday does not contain abortion funding restrictions that were included in previous relief bills in 2020. Pro-life groups have warned that the bill would result in a massive increase in abortion funding, including through health insurance subsidies.

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