I am a Virginian through and through – I was born here, raised here, educated here, and I have worked here for all of my twenty two years. I love this commonwealth (not state; that’s right, I know VA’s quirks) with all of my heart, but I can’t trust it when it comes to reproductive issues and that worries me. Each time I check the news it seems that there is yet another limitation on reproductive health occurring in Virginia and it leaves me with a looming sense of fear.
At the moment, I do owe the state some kudos when it comes to my reproductive health. I am a student at a state university whose health center has provided me with my birth control prescriptions for the past year and I’ve gotten STI screenings at a clinic that receives state funding. Without these options, being responsible would be much more of a challenge. I want to thank Virginia for that.
But more and more I keep hearing about bills and restrictions and bans that instead of protecting my health and future, threaten me. It doesn’t matter how responsible I am or how reliably I use contraception – there is always the risk that despite my precautions, I may become pregnant. I am not ready to be a parent. I know this with absolute certainty and I want my right to terminate the pregnancy to be an absolute certainty too.
Even without the many regulations, accessibility is a serious issue in Virginia. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008 over 85 percent of Virginia counties had no abortion provider and as a result over half of the commonwealth’s female population were left with limited reproductive health options.
Thanks (but no thanks to Governor Bob McDonnell) to the TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) we may lose even more abortion clinics and make it that much harder for those who need abortions to be able to get them. Access is even more difficult due to the mandatory ultrasound bill, HB 462, which requires that patients living within 100 miles of the provider must obtain an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the procedure. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to get an ultrasound one day and an actual procedure the next day without potentially getting me me fired from my job or resulting in me potentially failing a class. Nor do I have the money to spend on a potential 200 mile drive twice.
Unfortunately, the Virginia legislature’s attack on reproductive heath isn’t over. According to NARAL, Governor McDonnell is considering amendments to H.B. 1900 or S.B. 921 that would ban coverage for abortion care in plans participating in the health insurance exchange, which would be a huge blow for many Virginians struggling to make ends meet.
One day I may hope to raise children, and if I do, I want them to grow up in a Virginia Commonwealth that affords me the right to make that decision for myself without ridiculous restrictions that make me jump through hoops for my health. Until that day, I am worried and you should be too.