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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Director of Communication
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING DEFENDS WOMEN’S HEALTH AND REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM

~ Herring joins a coalition of 16 attorneys general in submitting Congressional testimony in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act ~ 

RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in submitting testimony to Congress, urging passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would protect the constitutional right to access an abortion by prohibiting unnecessary restrictions passed at the state level that undermine the availability and safety of women’s health care services.

 

“Women have the right to make their own healthcare decisions, especially when it comes to their reproductive health, and they should never have to worry about their government making those decisions harder than they already can be,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, too many states across the country are passing laws restricting women’s access to safe reproductive healthcare and this disproportionately affects women in lower-income communities and communities of color. Women deserve access to safe, accessible reproductive healthcare without restrictive regulations or impediments and I will continue to stand with my colleagues as a strong ally in this fight.”

 

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that, while legislators in many states may claim that the laws they are enacting are being passed to promote women’s health, the reality is that these laws are simply designed to restrict access to abortion services and, most often, lead to worse health outcomes for women. These include laws requiring physicians to have admitting privileges at hospitals and setting arbitrary requirements at women’s health clinics for the size of procedure rooms and corridors. The proliferation of these restrictions has negatively impacted women’s health and disproportionately affected low-income communities of color, while simultaneously creating a lack of national consistency that strains states’ healthcare systems. Most importantly, any law that imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy is unconstitutional.

 

The Women’s Health Protection Act targets these onerous state laws that have been adopted in a concerted strategy to restrict access to abortion across the nation. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Texas law that required abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital failed to advance women’s health and posed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. Additionally, last year, a coalition of attorneys general helped win another victory in June Medical Services v. Gee, in which the Supreme Court held that a similar law in Louisiana was unconstitutional.

 

As more states try to pass new laws that restrict women’s reproductive freedoms with medically unnecessary restrictions, new court challenges continue to be filed — a process that can often take years. That’s why Attorney General Herring and his colleagues are urging Congress to pass the WHPA to ensure that such restrictions are not imposed in the first place.

 

The consequences of these laws are already evident across the country. Research from 2017 found that 38 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 44 live in counties without a single abortion clinic. Additionally, as of June 2019, six states have only one abortion clinic remaining. As providers close due to the impact of medically unnecessary restrictions, women are likely to be forced to travel farther and make greater sacrifices to obtain access to care. In fact, history shows that many women will cross state lines, if they have the means to do so, when abortions are unavailable in the states where they live. Unfortunately, the burden of living in a state with restrictive access to abortion care often falls disproportionately on lower-income women who cannot afford to travel, take time off from work, or find childcare while they visit their nearest provider.

 

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues go on to assert that laws aimed specifically at restricting abortion providers have proved, time and time again, to lead to worse health outcomes for women, including:

 

  • Increased maternal mortality rates
  • Delayed abortions, as well as increased health risks and costs for women who find themselves too far from an abortion provider
  • The undertaking of dangerous “black market” or self-induced abortions by some women
  • A four-times higher risk of developing potentially life-threatening health conditions for women who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term, as well as substantially greater likelihood of experiencing physical violence from abusive partners or family members

 

The widely known negative effects of laws targeting abortion providers undermines any argument that such laws are intended to promote women’s health.

 

Finally, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that without the WHPA, a lack of consistency in access to abortion services will lead to unnecessary strain on the states’ health care systems. Many women will cross state lines, if they have the means to do so, when abortions are unavailable in the states where they live. In the wake of recent abortion restrictions, some states have experienced a substantial influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions as a result of reduced access in their home states. Medically unnecessary restrictions targeting abortion providers create a disservice to women’s health and safety and pose challenges for states that aim to provide a full range of reproductive health services.

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in submitting today’s testimony to Congress are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

 

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