Here at the General Assembly, Senate and House conferees have hunkered down to negotiate the state budget. Two seemingly disparate topics are featured in the pages of budget proposals: health coverage for low-income Virginia residents and better protections for unborn children.

But at their root, both of these issues relate to the sanctity of human life. Life, at its earliest moments and at every stage, is sacred. The right to health care access is for all, including vulnerable adults; the foundational right to life is for all, including children still in the womb. In this year of unique possibilities, the Virginia Catholic Conference is urging legislators to adopt a budget that, to the extent possible, covers all and protects all.

Nearly 400,000 low-income Virginians make too much income to qualify for Virginia’s Medicaid program. Yet, they earn too little to afford health insurance. By extending health coverage to everyone who falls in this gap, our budget would cover all as much as possible.

Virginia currently funds abortions for Medicaid-eligible pregnant women in four cases. Three of them – danger to the life of the mother, rape and incest – are included under the federal Hyde Amendment and funded partly by the federal government. But Virginia also funds a fourth category, entirely with state money: abortions of children who might be born with disabilities. Virginia should stop spending money – our money – on abortions the Hyde Amendment does not require it to fund. By adopting the Hyde restrictions, in place federally for over 40 years and followed by most states, our budget would protect all as much as possible.

A budget that covers all and protects all to the fullest extent currently possible would be genuine health care reform. Please join us in praying and advocating for this outcome!


Jeff Caruso is the executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference