Virginia governor vetoes Republican bill to slash Planned Parenthood funds

Virginia House Bill 1090 would have cut state contracts with non-hospital health care providers that perform abortions. Abortions accounted for 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services last year. 

Bob Brown/ Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, at right, reviews legislation with staff at the State Capitol on March 11. The Governor, a Democrat, vetoed a bill to restrict Planned Parenthood funding on March 29.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have restricted state funding for Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, blocking the state's majority-Republican legislature from becoming the latest state to impose new restrictions on abortion providers.

Governor McAuliffe, a Democrat whose campaign promised to block "extremists" from limiting women's reproductive health care and abortion access, vetoed the bill at the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood in Richmond.

House Bill 1090 would have prevented non-hospital providers who perform abortions other than in cases of rape, incest, or severe fetal abnormalities from receiving state funding. In the past year, more than a dozen states have debated similar measures to restrict abortion access, frequently through requirements that abortion providers have admission privileges at nearby hospitals: a measure that proponents say improves women's safety, but opponents, such as the American Public Health Association, call unnecessary and burdensome. A similar provision in Texas is currently being weighed by the US Supreme Court.

Roughly half of Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortions. Under federal law federal funds cannot be used for abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother. State's defunding campaigns would limit other services, such as cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted disease (STD), and contraception, which represent about 83 percent of its procedures, according to Planned Parenthood's annual report. Abortions represent about 3 percent.

"Without this service, we could see an increase in STDs, more complications with pregnancies and an increase in health issues among newborns," McAuliffe said.

Bill sponsor Delegate Benjamin Cline (R) said the new rules would have "redirect[ed] taxpayer dollars toward more comprehensive providers of health care services for women," and accused McAuliffe of "listening to his friends in the abortion lobby."

Some 59 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, according to Gallup. Campaigns to defund the organization have proven popular in state legislatures, however, particularly since the release of videos recording staff discussing fetal tissue sales with activists posing as medical researchers last summer and fall. 

"If you are OK with the harvesting of the body parts and tissue of those murdered children, then your soul is walking with Satan," Virginia Delegate Richard Morris (R) told state lawmakers in January. 

McAuliffe has declined calls to investigate Planned Parenthood, which says it only collects money to cover tissue handling costs, not to make a profit. A dozen state investigations have found no wrongdoing on the health care providers' part. Instead, a Texan grand jury indicted the videos' creators, from the Center for Medical Progress, on felony charges of tampering with a government record with intent to defraud. 

To avoid similar debates Planned Parenthood has since said that it will no longer collect reimbursement for transportation and storage relating to fetal tissue donation that is allowed by federal law. The Virginia League does not have a tissue transfer program.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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