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Advocates say Youngkin abortion amendment will have biggest impact on low-income and Virginians of color

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin prepares to sign executive orders in the governors conference room at the Capitol, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin prepares to sign executive orders in the governors conference room at the Capitol, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Advocates for abortion rights say a budget amendment proposed by Governor Glenn Youngkin will have the most impact on low-income and Virginians of color.

In Virginia, the budget can put laws into effect for a limited time period, giving lawmakers - and the governor - the opportunity to legislate in a large package that can make opposition political difficult

Wednesday evening, Youngkin submitted 38 budget amendments. Youngkin asked for more money for security at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and a gas tax holiday. Education and criminal justice were among the non-financial issues targeted.

One budget amendment, though, was a prohibition on using state funds for abortion services that would not apply in situations required by federal law.

Jamie Lockhart of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia said this would affect incapacitating fetal diagnoses, like when babies are born without parts of their brain and skull.

“Virginia denies state funding to Medicaid-eligible pregnant people who seek an abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnant person's life is at risk and in cases of incapacitating fetal diagnoses,” said Lockhart. “This amendment would impact a small number of Virginians who already have a difficult access to care.”

Virginia provided $1,125.61 for 21 abortions for diagnoses like these last year, according to a Virginia Department of Health document. Since 2017, the number of these procedures has stayed relatively stable, except in 2020 when only two were approved.

“The Virginia General Assembly prohibited VDH from funding abortions in cases of fetal anomalies from May 2, 2019, to April 29, 2020,” according to the document. “No applications for these cases were accepted during this period. Any payments for fetal anomaly cases during this period were for procedures received and approved before May 2, 2019.”

Advocates said this restriction would fall on Virginians on Medicaid would be most affected, and especially people of color.

“Black women are already three times more likely to die during childbirth. We already have the most complicated issues when it comes to birth.,” said Kenda Sutton-El, the Executive Director of Birth in Color, a maternal health and reproductive health nonprofit.

Sutton-El is also concerned with the mental health impacts. “It just seems like this is a target that we actually just keep putting on people of color's backs to say like, ‘Okay, let's just do everything we can to them.’” said Sutton-El

One Senate Democrat is traveling, making the amendment more likely to pass, and presenting a hurdle for abortion-rights advocates.

“We haven't had a chance to talk to all the legislators,” said Lockhart. “We're talking to our supporters about talking to their delegates and senators and making sure they know about this cruel and discriminatory amendment and,that Virginians are watching to see how folks vote”

Legislators meet Friday to vote on the measure.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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