By Megan Corsano and Amelia Heymann
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – A bill seeking to defund Planned Parenthood cleared a House subcommittee Tuesday on a 4-1 vote.
HB 2264, introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, “would prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from granting funds or entering into contracts with certain health care providers that perform abortion.”
More specifically, it would cut off Title X funding for Planned Parenthood, which supports family planning services, long-term contraception and educational programs.
“It’s just another effort to cripple the organization,” said David Timberline, director of communications for the Planned Parenthood League of Virginia.
Planned Parenthood has clinics in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Charlottesville and Roanoke. Timberline said most people come to the clinics for family planning, cancer screening and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Last year, 18,000 people visited Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia.
Timberline believes that many of the people who oppose Planned Parenthood think that once it is shut down, other clinics can pick up providing the family planning services that the organization provides. “That is completely false,” he said.
Supporters of the bill said it would ensure that taxpayer money is spent on “fully comprehensive health clinics” to provide services to women. Addressing the subcommittee of the House Committee of Health, Welfare and Institutions, Cline said the legislation “ensures that hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics are funded prior to abortion centers.”
He said the bill would give priority to more than 140 federally qualified and rural health clinics in Virginia. Cline said the bill would make sure that money is sent to “health clinics that meet the needs of those populations they serve in the most comprehensive manner possible,” instead of to clinics that provide abortions.
Cline introduced an identical bill in the 2016 legislative session. It passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The House was one vote short of overriding the governor’s veto.
Several women addressed the subcommittee in opposition to the bill. They included Dr. Serina Floyd, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Northern Virginia. Floyd said the bill would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on Planned Parenthood’s comprehensive services.
“The fact is that Virginians, particularly low-income Virginians, need more access to health care and not less,” she said. “Hospitals that provide abortions have been exempted from the bill, which means that only health centers like Planned Parenthood are being targeted.”
Supporters of the bill include the Family Foundation of Virginia. According to its website, the group believes that “human life, from fertilization until natural death, is sacred, and the right to life is fundamental to all other rights.”
Anna Scholl, executive director of the organization Progress Virginia, believes the bill would violate the rights of women.
“It is none of Delegate Cline’s business where a woman decides to get her health care. Every woman in Virginia deserves access to safe, high-quality health care at a family planning clinic of her choice,” Scholl said.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood means that the full range of family planning options will be unavailable to the individuals, families, and communities that are most medically underserved in the commonwealth.”
Timberline plans to continue to rally community support to fight attacks on Planned Parenthood.
“We’re trying to get the word out that people who are fired up about what’s happening on the national level can have their voice heard on the local,” Timberline said. “They can speak at community hearings. That’s what we did this morning, and that’s what we plan to do with anything that comes along that tries to deny the services that we provide to our patients.”
The bill will advance to the full House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions. The panel will consider the legislation on Thursday.