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Gov. Youngkin targets already-limited state funding for abortion with budget amendment

Democrats and pro-abortion rights groups criticized the proposal as an attack on women, particularly those who have low income and rely on public health programs.
Credit: AP
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks during news conference announcing the Department of Education report on education Thursday May 19, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who describes himself as pro-life, is looking to further limit state funding for abortion services with a budget amendment released Wednesday.

The amendment is one of 38 changes the Republican governor is looking to make to the two-year budget bill, which passed a divided Virginia General Assembly recently. It comes ahead of an anticipated Supreme Court ruling that could affect abortion rights across the country.

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According to Youngkin's amendment explanation, it would prohibit any funding from being used for abortion services unless otherwise required by federal law. That's different from the budget that Virginia lawmakers passed, which extended the requirement to state statute.

As Virginia law currently stands, state funds can be used for abortions when the pregnancy results from rape or incest, if a fetus has incapacitating deformities or mental deficiencies or when the pregnancy threatens the life or health of the mother.

Youngkin's spokesperson Macaulay Porter compared Youngkin's change to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds for most abortion services, except for limited cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

"I would note that Governor Youngkin reinstated the Hyde language to make it clear that Virginian taxpayers will not be forced to pay for abortions," Porter said in a statement.

Several Democratic officials and pro-abortion rights groups criticized the proposed amendment as an attack on women's health. The Democratic Party of Virginia said it would disproportionately impact low-income Virginians, people of color, and women across the Commonwealth.

"This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe, Governor Youngkin has voiced his support for states' to have the ability to criminalize abortion and stated to ‘go on offense’ and restrict a women’s right to choose here in the Commonwealth," DPVA Spokesperson Gianni Snidle said in a statement.

The Virginia chapter of the ACLU shared a statement saying the amendment would impact economically disadvantaged people who face disparities in the health care system.

"By removing fetal abnormalities, Governor Youngkin’s proposal strips individuals of the ability to make decisions about pregnancies which potentially have tragic outcomes, even forcing someone to carry a non-viable pregnancy to term," ACLU Virginia Policy and Advocacy Counsel Breanna Diaz said in a statement.

The Hampton Roads Reproductive Justice League said in a statement it believes abortion is essential health care that should be accessible to everyone.

"Bodily autonomy should not be dependent on socioeconomic status. It is unconscionable that our governor is choosing to weaponize poverty against his citizens," the group wrote.

Virginia lawmakers will return to the State Capitol in Richmond Friday to consider Youngkin's proposed amendments. While Republicans control the House of Delegates, the abortion amendment faces a Democratic-controlled Senate.

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