|Del. Kaye Kory and state Sen. Barbara Favola speak at a NARAL fundraiser.|
“Women should be in charge of women,” said Del. Kaye Kory (D-38th District) at a fundraiser for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Jan. 9 at the home of NARAL board member Kimberly Smith in Lake Barcroft. Kory, whose district covers much of Annandale and Falls Church, called on the audience of several dozen to urge state legislators – via emails and phone calls – to support women’s reproductive rights.
“We all agree that women’s health is important, so wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to ensure that Planned Parenthood has the funding to help low-income families with family planning?” said State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District).
If Virginia breaks its contract with Planned Parenthood, it faces “a tremendous financial penalty,” she said. If women’s health advocates can’t win on the merits, they need to come up with creative ways to defeat these measures on financial and pragmatic issues, Favola said, whose district includes most of Arlington and northern Fairfax County.
Legislators are coming up with lots of “crazy stuff,” Favola said, like a personhood bill “that’s so ridiculous and poorly conceived that doctors would be afraid to conduct an abortion even to save a woman’s life.”
“Personhood” bills would grant legal rights for an individual beginning at conception in an attempt to outlaw abortion and some forms of birth control. Other measures expected to be introduced would impose unconstitutional bans on abortion, impose harsh regulations on abortion providers, and extend the mandatory waiting periods before women can get an abortion.
“These people are from another world,” Favola said of hardliners on the abortion issue. “It’s a bit discouraging.”
“We need to keep talking about women’s right to privacy,” Favola said. “Women have the right to a private conversation with their physicians.” A majority of the population believes “the Constitution should be the framework for the United States, not the Bible,” she said. “We need to take control of the conversation.”
One piece of legislation Favola supports calls for insurance equity for women. Birth control is not covered by most insurance plans, which costs women about $500 year, while most plans cover Viagra for men. A bill expected to be introduced would allow women to purchase a rider on their health plans covering abortions.
Other pro-choice legislation expected to be introduced would allow women to obtain a year’s supply of oral birth control pills at a time and repeal Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound and forced 24-hour delay law for women seeking abortions.
It’s been relatively quiet on women’s issues over the past couple of years, said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, but “our opponents are coming out of hibernation.”
Nearly 60 anti-abortion bills were passed in the United States in 2015, Keene said. “It may seem we’re losing the battle to protect women’s rights, but there is some good news: People are with us.” Seven in 10 Americans support women’s abortion rights and oppose roadblocks against women seeking abortions, even though they might not choose to have an abortion themselves, she said.
But among members of the Virginia General Assembly, only six in 10 oppose abortion rights and vote against bills to protect those rights.
“We should not be silent. Silence is surrender,” Keene said. “Women should not feel ashamed about having an abortion, and they should have to have face protesters with signs when they pull up to a clinic.
NARAL is asking Virginia legislators to sign a statement saying the government should not stand in the way of women seeking to have an abortion. “This will show us who’s accountable,” Keene said. “We going to shame them, instead of them trying to shame us.”