Gov. Northam signs Virginia Reproductive Health Protection Act
On Friday, April 10, a day before Governor Ralph Northam's legislative action deadline for bills passed by the General Assembly in 2020, he announced that he had signed a bill to repeal a number of abortion restrictions in Virginia.
Northam signed the Reproductive Health Protection Act, which repeals what the governor says are "medically-unnecessary restrictions on women’s healthcare."
, identical measures, repeal Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law and 24-hour waiting period prior to abortion.
The bills also roll back restrictions on women's health centers, which Democrats said were designed to force centers that provide abortions to close.
“No more will legislators in Richmond—most of whom are men—be telling women what they should and should not be doing with their bodies,” said Governor Northam in a statement. “The Reproductive Health Protection Act will make women and families safer, and I’m proud to sign it into law.”
"This is about protecting Virginians’ health, rights, and basic dignity,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan, who sponsored the bill. “Today, we have finally put an end to these medically unnecessary barriers to women's reproductive health care. Politicians should not interfere in women’s personal medical decisions, period.”
The restrictions were enacted when Republicans controlled Virginia’s General Assembly.
Abortion-rights advocacy groups praised the legislation's passage. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia called it the first-ever “proactive bill on access to safe, legal abortion” in Virginia’s history.
“When this legislation goes into effect, Virginians will no longer have to navigate an obstacle course of delays and barriers in order to access a safe and legal abortion,” said Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.
The measures passed largely along party lines, with staunch opposition from Republicans and religious advocacy groups that testified against it in committee hearings.
Republican Del. Kathy Byron said in a floor speech during the General Assembly session that the changes would lead to women being less informed about “maybe one of the most important decisions that they ever make.”
“What we're doing today is we're voting to deny women complete information on what an abortion means, its consequences, its implications, its alternatives," she said.
House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, who sponsored that chamber's version of the bill, said the measure was doing away with medically unnecessary requirements. She said it was particularly important because women sometimes need an abortion to complete a miscarriage.
“We're requiring an ultrasound, and a woman has miscarried,” she said of one of the existing requirements.
The bills are advancing at a time when abortion-rights advocates are increasingly worried the nation's highest court could overturn or chip away at the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.
Abortion-rights advocates have said the changes will make Virginia a “safe haven” for abortion access for women in neighboring conservative states.
Also signed into law by Northam on Friday