Letter: Planned Parenthood Should Be Funded

Letter: Planned Parenthood Should Be Funded

— Several budget items before the budget Conference Committee in the General Assembly are of great importance to the Women's Reproductive Health Caucus. On behalf of the Caucus and with bipartisan support from Democrats and Senate Republicans, we have asked that the final budget include our recommendations.

One amendment would completely defund Planned Parenthood Centers. There are only seven Planned Parenthood Centers throughout the State. They are located in Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Falls Church, Hampton, Richmond, Roanoke and Virginia Beach. More than 24,000 Virginians visited these centers in 2012. In addition to providing pap tests, breast screenings, STD services and other preventive health care services, these centers provide family planning services to low income women through a Medicaid contract with the state. Under current law, a Medicaid contract cannot be terminated unless there is "cause." Planned Parenthood Centers should be funded.

There is a provision that prohibits funding any action by the Governor on TRAP (targeted regulations on abortion providers). This is an overreach by the legislature into Executive Branch authority and should not remain in the budget. We asked that this language be removed.

Finally, there is language that introduces the Hyde Amendment. This is redundant. Virginia law currently prohibits state dollars from supporting abortions except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. However, Virginia's Medicaid program does cover abortions in the rare cases where gross fetal abnormalities develop. The House budget deletes this provision and does not allocate funding to care for the children who would be born with these life-threatening disabilities. Full funding for gross fetal abnormality abortion must be restored.

The FAMIS MOMS program is only funded in the Senate budget. This program provides health care coverage to low-income pregnant women. As of Jan. 1, 2014, FAMIS MOMS stopped enrollment. Eliminating FAMIS MOMS means some low-income women will go without essential prenatal and maternity health care. Full funding for this important program should be restored.

We ask our colleagues to make the health of women and families a priority in the upcoming budget.

Barbara Favola, Senate Chair

Kaye Kory, House Chair

Women's Reproductive Health Caucus