RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation Tuesday that sought to remove state and federal funding for women's health providers such as Planned Parenthood and any other groups that perform abortions in Virginia.
In this veto statement, McAuliffe said the bill, HB 2264, "would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers, by denying them access to affordable care."
Planned Parenthood held a veto ceremony on the steps of the Governor's Mansion. According to the organization, more than 22,000 people in Richmond, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, and Roanoke rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, well-woman exams and legal abortions.
"We are proud to have a governor in Virginia who stands with the women of our commonwealth," said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. She said McAuliffe "understands how vitally important access to comprehensive reproductive health care provided by Planned Parenthood is for women."
Pro-life activists lined the steps of the Governor's Mansion bearing signs reading "All Lives Matter" and "Say No to Planned Parenthood." In a press release, the Family Foundation of Virginia rejected the assertion that women would no longer have access to health care if the bill had been enacted.
"Nothing in Virginia right now is more predictable than Terry McAuliffe doing all that he can to ensure that taxpayers are forced to prop up the abortion industry," said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation. "If there's one issue on which Gov. McAuliffe has been ideologically rigid, it is his unwavering support and protection of the same $1 billion abortion industry that contributed nearly $2 million to his election."
Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, sponsored HB 2264. He introduced identical legislation in the General Assembly's 2016 session. Last year's bill passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by McAuliffe. The House fell one vote short of overriding the governor's veto.
HB 2264 passed the House 60-33 on Feb. 7 and the Senate 20-19 on Feb. 14.
For women's rights advocates, McAuliffe's veto comes as a relief. Republicans would have to muster a two-thirds majority in each chamber – 67 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate – to override the veto.
"Defunding Planned Parenthood is a blatant attempt to deny women access to the full range of reproductive health care services, and Virginia women won't stand for it," said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy group.
"Politicians in Richmond don't get to decide where women get their health care and what kind of services they receive, and we're glad that Gov. McAuliffe agrees."