OG Research Letter #1

Bill Number: HB 1445 & SB 917 

Patrons: Delegate Marcia Price, Senator Mamie Locke

Location: Pending Virginia House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee

Who to reach out to:

House Chair for Health welfare etc : DelMSickles@house.virginia.gov

Speaker of the House of Delegates: DelEFiller-Corn@house.virginia.gov

The Reproductive Health Equity Act 

HB 1445 & SB 917

December 1, 2020

Dear Delegate Sickles,

My name is Elsa Ferguson and I am a high school senior at Renaissance School in Charlottesville, VA.  I am reaching out today to advocate for this important legislation in the hopes that it will be given the urgent attention it deserves. HB 1445 & SB 917 are bills that must be passed to ensure the health and economic security of all Virginians. 

The Reproductive Health Equity Act would establish a system that provides comprehensive insurance coverage for the full spectrum of reproductive health services. This includes family planning, abortion, and postpartum care. It would be available for all Virginians,  regardless of income, immigration status, gender identity, or type of insurance. 

Along with many essential improvements in reproductive healthcare insurance, these bills would ensure Medicaid coverage for abortion. I believe restrictions on public funding for abortion do not align with the goals of a state Medicaid program, which is to provide the poor “with access to medical services comparable to that enjoyed by more affluent persons.”

This year I have formulated my senior thesis around the issues of equal access to abortion through insurance coverage. I was inspired to advocate for women’s reproductive rights when the inequity was plainly presented in front of me.  

At the age of 16, one of my close friends got pregnant. I remember the day she told me. We were sitting outside of our other friend’s house on the doorstep. She cried into my arms as she mourned for the baby she was not nearly ready to care for and the unfairness of her situation. Her Medicaid insurance had an expensive co-pay for her contraception and it certainly did not cover abortion. Her parents made it clear that she would be shunned in her African-American community unless she resolved the pregnancy on her own. She told me that she had reached out to the public abortion funds in our area but due to high-demand, she would not receive help for quite some time. The longer she had to wait to come up with the money for the procedure the more expensive and difficult to access it became. Eventually, with assistance from the public abortion fund, working each day after school, and financial support from friends, she received her abortion at 16 weeks.  My friend ended up missing a week and a half of school to travel to an out of state clinic where the cost of a later abortion was cheaper.  I gave her money out of my pocket to pay for gas for the trip. Having missed a large chunk of school and spent most of her free time working to raise money for her procedure, my friend just barely passed her Junior year of high school. 

This story provides an example of the irreversible trauma and hardship that surrounds access to reproductive care in the state of Virginia and the greater United States of America, specifically abortion. It is also a testimony to the resilience of women who will do whatever it takes to find a way. This is because the choice of whether and when to become a mother is fundamental to her life’s course. Does Virginia accept the idea that a woman who lacks a high income simply loses her ability to decide if it’s a good time to bring a child into the world? If Virginia passes HB 1445 & SB 917 and alleviates financial restrictions for poor, underinsured women and non-binary individuals in seek of reproductive health care, our state would be taking a vital measure toward addressing the significant race and gender disparities in the reproductive healthcare system. 

In 2018, Guttmacher Institute found 186,340 individuals of reproductive-age in Virginia were covered by Medicaid. This means that passing the Reproductive Health Equity Act would improve around 186,340 plus lives just by having sufficient access to family planning care. This would extend beyond the lives of these women and non-binary individuals, improving the lives of their families and the surrounding community. I have focused on public insurance to display a fraction of the immense positive impact that passing this act would have on Virginia. 

I want to live in a state that hears the cries of injustice and creates policies that progress societal change conducive to health equity. I want to live in a state where at 17, I do not have to give my 16-year-old friend money to help her receive an abortion because her insurance will not cover it. Solving the issue of inequality in access to reproductive healthcare is crucial in order to achieve a healthy and happy commonwealth. I believe every individual should have the resources to plan their family in a safe environment with access to necessary preventive health care and the Reproductive Health Equity Act would grant this.

Please hear my words and share them with your fellow members of the House. I thank you graciously for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely,

Elsa Ferguson

Renaissance School

Charlottesville, VA

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