Press "Enter" to skip to content

Democratic lawmakers in Charlottesville call on Youngkin to sign bill protecting access to birth control

Democratic legislators are asking Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to sign a bill that would protect access to contraceptives in Virginia.

The Republican governor has until April 8 to sign the proposed legislation into law and codify the right to contraception, allowing permanent access to condoms, intrauterine devices, birth control pills and emergency contraceptives, such as Plan B.

State Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, a Chesterfield Democrat who crafted the legislation, is traveling to Richmond, Harrisonburg and Charlottesville to rally support for the measure.

In front of a small crowd at Charlottesville’s Quirk Hotel on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, Hashmi said that while access to contraceptives is not under immediate threat, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ceding responsibility over abortion restrictions back to states, also left open the possibility that birth control could be targeted next.

“It’s really unfortunate that we even have to be on this tour. Just a few years ago, very few of us would have thought that access to contraceptives will be the next battleground in the fight for reproductive health care,” Hashmi said.

She was joined Wednesday by Katrina Callsen, Charlottesville’s representative in the House of Delegates.

“Let’s be very clear. Reproductive freedom is under attack in the United States,” Callsen told the crowd. “Our court system across the country is being stacked with extreme judges committed to dismantling decades of legal precedent in order to make it easier for states to pass ban after ban on reproductive freedom and health care that we all rely on.”

If the Supreme Court were to remove federal protections on contraceptive access, Hashmi’s bill — assuming Youngkin signs it — would ensure that Virginians would still have those protections.

There’s reason to believe that access is in danger. In Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence in the Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade, he noted that the court “should reconsider” its 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark case that protects the liberty of married couple to use contraceptives. A later case expanded that right to unmarried people.

“The minute Clarence Thomas said what he said of revisiting Griswold, we knew that this is a threat that we need to take seriously,” Hashmi told The Daily Progress. “This is a good-faith effort to protect contraception, because we’ve seen the real threats. We’ve seen the escalating language around these issues across the country.”

That includes Oklahoma, where legislators have introduced a bill that would restrict access to IUDs and over-the-counter contraceptives.

Hashmi compared her bill to the Reproductive Health Protection Act, which codified abortion access in 2020 when Democrats controlled the Executive Mansion and both chambers in the General Assembly in Richmond.

“Should the Supreme Court dismantle the Griswold decision and throw it back to the states, that way we are protecting it in the code. We won’t see the harm that other states will see inevitably,” she said.

She also claimed that many of her Republican colleagues have told her in private conversation that while they would like to support the bill, they are unable to politically.

“The main reason is that there is a national effort to conflate abortion with contraception. It’s a completely false equivalency,” she said.

Hashmi’s bill is strictly focused on contraceptive care, medication and devices. But conservative activist groups, according to Hashmi, have told Republican legislators that they can’t support the bill regardless.

In the middle of the legislative session that ended in March, Youngkin’s office told Hashmi that the governor would not sign the bill. But she and her Democratic colleagues hope some developments have changed his mind: A few Republicans did cross the aisle to vote for the bill, but more than that, there has been tremendous national backlash to an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that now endangers access to in vitro fertilization in that state.

Elsewhere, Florida voters this November will have the chance to enshrine the right to abortion care in that state. Similar referendums in other states have passed with overwhelming support.

“All of these factors should weigh on the mind of the governor as he works to consider what legislation is necessary in Virginia, how he is going to be an active governor that addresses the needs of all Virginians, rather than seeking to cater to a small and extremist group of individuals who are trying to persuade him to not sign legislation such as this,” Hashmi said.

Relationships between Youngkin and his Democrat colleagues are tense. The governor’s hopes to bring a $2.2 billion sports arena to Alexandria were recently shot down by Virginia’s leading Democrats, and Youngkin has vetoed many bills brought to him by Democrats since the deal fell apart.

This contraceptive bill could be next.

Many Democrats have accused the governor of not doing enough to work with General Assembly members. On Wednesday, Hashmi said that includes Republicans.

“I hear from my Republican colleagues a great deal of frustration that they are not involved in many of the policy decisions and collaboration — the work that’s necessary to advance meaningful legislation,” she said.

Youngkin has not reached out to Democrats and Republicans to build relationships, said Hashmi, who added that the governor has waited too late in the session to reach out. She believes Youngkin should have started that work much earlier.

“It’s unfortunate that the governor really hasn’t done that in the past years that he’s been in office. There’s a steep learning curve that takes place, but especially for a governor that comes in without any kind of political experience,” she said. “It’s been a challenge to work with this administration.”


Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *