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Health coverage expanded, pro-life efforts blocked as GA special session concludes

May 31, 2018 by Jeff Caruso

Budget includes vital help for poor, omits essential pro-life protections

Last night, the Virginia General Assembly finally passed a budget, which now heads to the Governor’s desk. The approved package includes historic, long debated provisions supported by the Virginia Catholic Conference to close the health coverage gap for working people up to 138% of poverty who do not qualify for Medicaid. As a result, as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians will now have access to the health insurance they cannot afford.

While approving this vital assistance, the General Assembly squandered the opportunities it had to include fundamental pro-life provisions in the budget:
  • By a 20-20 vote, the Senate failed to adopt the Hyde Amendment, which was the Conference’s highest priority. Offered by Senator Carrico, this essential provision – followed by the federal government and more than half of all states – would have prohibited state taxpayer funding of abortion except in the limited circumstances of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother. As Chair of the Senate, the Lieutenant Governor casts tie-breaking votes, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke the 20-20 tie by voting against the Hyde Amendment.
  • Without a recorded vote, the Senate also failed to adopt an amendment, offered by Senator Black with the Conference’s encouragement, to stop a $6 million program targeting low-income women and teens with long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). As a result, this Conference-opposed program is in the state budget. Much of the money is expected to flow to Planned Parenthood.
One other Conference priority went in a more positive direction. The final budget includes a long overdue increase in the state’s auxiliary grant rate, providing much needed additional support for low-income elderly and others with disabilities who receive assisted living care at St. Francis Home and similar facilities.

As we reflect on these outcomes, we would like to thank all who took action on the alerts we sent as these budget issues were being considered. In cases where the results last night were not what we sought, we will continue to advance our concerns when future budgets are debated.
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The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public policy agency representing Virginia’s Catholic bishops and their two dioceses.