Del. Sally Hudson said there’s room for bipartisan support on the emergency contraception bill she is sponsoring in the General Assembly’s lower house.
That could be a hard sell to Republicans in the House of Delegates, many of whom have compared emergency contraception to abortion.
“My hope is that this is the kind of project that we can discuss in a bipartisan fashion, because this is not about abortion. This is about contraception,” Hudson, a Democrat who lives in and represents Charlottesville as part of the 57th District, told The Daily Progress on Wednesday.
Current Virginia law allows a health care provider to refuse to offer someone emergency contraception if doing so violates that provider’s moral or religious beliefs. Hudson’s bill would guarantee that another provider is available to prescribe emergency contraception if a survivor asks for it.
The bill would also ensure that a survivor of sexual assault has access to emergency contraception, be it a pill such as Plan B or an intrauterine device, via the Virginia Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund. Hudson said it’s especially important that this bill includes access and funding for IUDs.
“The crime victim fund, which is meant to serve exactly this purpose, does not accept all the requests to fund IUDs,” Hudson said.
And in some cases, such as survivors who have a high weight or who come to a hospital more than 24 hours after unprotected sex, an IUD is a more effective form of emergency contraception.
Still, it’s not clear whether the legislation will make it out of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. Though the bill attempts to help survivors of sexual assault prevent unwanted pregnancies, some Republicans view emergency contraception as a kind of abortion. Republican Del. Marie March of the 7th District has filed a bill this legislative session that would define life as beginning at conception.
“When Republicans have been more willing to talk about contraception, it’s often in the context of sexual assault,” Hudson said. “There are many Republican legislators who have tried to stake their claim as protectors of victims of sexual assault.”
Republican Del. Rob Bell, whose 58th District is a close neighbor to Hudson’s, has made defending survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence a key issue. He’s written legislation to increase penalties for violating a protective order, to make revenge porn illegal and to increase the money available to victims of sexual assault via the Virginia Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund. His website defines him as “pro-life.” Bell did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Progress on Wednesday.
Hudson said she is holding out hope that Republicans, like Bell, reach across the aisle.
“My hope is this is the kind of bill that might get the discussion that it deserves in our current environment,” Hudson said.