Senator Barbara Favola gave the following statement to representatives of the State Board of Health on March 12, 2013 at the John Marshall Public Library in Alexandria.
Statement by State Senator Barbara Favola
Proposed TRAP Regulations
Presented to the Virginia Board of Health
March 12, 2013
For almost four decades, Virginia’s women’s health centers have provided safe, accessible and comprehensive reproductive health care. Virginia’s women and families need access to these services.
As responsible decision-makers and advocates for good health, we should want women to have access to cervical cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings, pap smears, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and contraceptive health care. Women also need access to counseling and referrals when they are the victims of rape, incest and sexual abuse. All of these services, and more, are provided at the 21 health centers throughout the State that will be subject to these regulations.
However, the costs associated with meeting the building requirements of the proposed TRAP regulations will be so prohibitive --clinics will be forced to close. Women in many parts of the State will be denied access to basic primary and preventive care. Women will also be denied access to safe and affordable abortions, forcing many to seek back alley procedures that could physically harm them for a lifetime. If we care about improved health outcomes for women and children and if we care about lowering abortion rates, then women need access to the entire range of reproductive health services offered by these centers.
I remind the Board that in1973, Justice Harry Blackmun, in his majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, defended a women’s right to make her own personal medical choices, stating: “This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent.”
These TRAP regulations are intended to coerce clinic operators and medical personnel into denying women access to safe and legal abortions, even though the right to access such procedures was confirmed by the Supreme Court 40 years ago. There is no medically necessary reason for these new TRAP requirements. What really is going on is politicians are playing politics with women’s healthcare. In effect, politicians are denying women the ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation when women can no longer control their reproductive lives.
Virginians believe that abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman and therefore decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her health care provider.
But these regulations will allow government inspectors to demand a year’s worth of patient lists from women’s health clinics that perform abortions. This is government intrusion into the most private decisions. Virginians do not want their government interfering in these matters.
You know and I know Thomas Jefferson envisioned a Commonwealth that would embrace a role of limited government;
-- A Commonwealth that respected an individuals’ right to privacy;
-- A Commonwealth that was not in the doctor’s examination office; and,
– A Commonwealth that did not let politics come between a patient and her
As a former member of the Board of Health, I know that this Board has always considered the facts associated with the allocation of medical resources. You have not been swayed by the “politics” of the day. I implore you to continue to exercise your best professional judgment and not be intimidated by Attorney General Cuccinelli and his far right ideology.
I ask you to not apply the physical requirements contained in the TRAP regulations. Honor your statutory responsibilities and provide a recommendation that improves access to needed health care in the State. Give Virginia’s women and families a chance for better and healthier lives.
Thank you for your attention.
The Women’s Reproductive Health Caucus, chaired by Senator Barbara Favola and Delegate Kaye Kory, held a press conference this morning to discuss the anti-women agenda the Republicans have promoted during this legislative session. Delegate Charniele Herring, as well as Senators Northam and McEachin, also spoke on these extreme and shameful acts by the GOP.
Senator Favola, a champion of the efforts to expand Medicaid, said, “This expansion will allow up to 400,000 individuals to be eligible for health coverage. Right now, these people are getting care at the most expensive point, and when their illness is quite severe. When they must wait to get care at an emergency room because they cannot afford to go to a doctor, you and I are paying for the cost through higher premiums. This needs to stop. We all believe that when individuals are ill, they deserve to have care. That is a value Virginians hold dear, so why don’t we do this in a rational way by giving individuals coverage?”
Medicaid expansion has been an issue in the forefront of Virginia legislators, and although the Senate included this measure in its approved budget, it has received much opposition and currently has an uncertain fate in the hands of the House Budget Conferees. However, the health care benefits Senator Favola conveyed as well as the expansion’s benefits for jobs and the economy have given it traction in the General Assembly.
Moreover, the recent attempt by Governor McDonnell to amend the health benefit exchange legislation in a way that prohibits the use of private dollars in the exchange to cover abortion procedures serves as the latest infringement on women’s rights, even at the cost of dictating what people can and cannot purchase with their private money. Senator Favola said, “There’s no place for this intrusion into a business arrangement. This is a private exchange between a woman and her insurance company.”
The Virginia Senate approved a compromise of Governor McDonnell’s transportation bill yesterday by a vote of 26-14. This measure includes provisions to raise the gasoline tax, allows localities to raise the sales tax and use the funds for local projects, and increases vehicle registration fees to channel more revenue toward various transportation improvements.
Senator Favola (D-Arlington) noted that this is “a key piece of legislation. It enhances funding for mass transit and rail systems, an important aspect for urban jurisdictions.”
The plan has several components. It is worth noting, however, that the largest source of revenue in the plan comes from raising the gasoline tax by 5 cents per gallon. This will bring in about $254 million a year starting in 2014, and will increase to more than $448 million within five years. This tax is indexed as well.
Sen. Favola said, “The gasoline tax does provide a nexus with road users and enables out-of-state travelers to participate in the upkeep of Virginia’s road system. It is important to note that the increase in the gas tax does not equate to an increase in gasoline prices at the pump.”
Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling has declared his support for the gas tax as well, considering it to be one of the best ways to solve the transportation problem in Virginia.
The state budget was voted out of the Virginia Senate yesterday with direction to move forward with Medicaid expansion and reforms. Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) championed this effort throughout the legislative session, assuring her colleagues that its benefits for the state’s economy, jobs, and the individual health of about 400,000 currently uninsured people make this expansion a clear choice.
She spoke before the Senate yesterday, saying “These individuals are currently getting care at our emergency rooms, and we are all paying the price through higher premiums. This care is delivered at the most costly point and patients are getting the worst outcomes. Moreover, $5 million a day in federal tax dollars from Virginians will go to support the expansion in other states, should we fail to approve this expansion."
Though the Senate’s passage of this budget item was a step in the right direction for Virginia, Medicaid expansion will now be in the hands of the House Budget conferees and the Governor.
You can view Sen. Favola’s full floor remarks on this initiative here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roAUdvqoawM&feature=youtu.be
Senate Democrats Defeat Discriminatory Bill to Drug Test Low Income Virginians Receiving State Assistance
A bill introduced by Senator Carrico would have made TANF applicants who refuse to participate in periodic drug screenings or who test positive for illegal substances ineligible to receive benefits for 12 months under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. With Republican Senator Blevins not voting, the bill was narrowly defeated yesterday by a 20-19 vote along party lines.
This measure unfairly targets participants in TANF, as it is the only form of government assistance in which drug testing is required. Senator Favola spoke in opposition to this bill before the Senate today, saying, “These are unfair and punitive measures that single out struggling Virginians simply because they are poor. In fact, studies show that welfare recipients have a lower percentage of illegal drug use than the general population. As a taxpayer, I believe money should not be spent on a problem that does not exist. I would rather spend these administrative dollars on job training programs for TANF moms.”
Also mentioned on the Senate floor today was the case of Florida, where a measure similar to this legislation was executed. Florida found this practice to be highly unsuccessful, resulting in no direct savings and ultimately finding very few drug users in the state assistance program. Senator Saslaw noted that, “The savings were ten times less than the cost to do the drug testing.”
Virginia Senate Passes Senator Favola’s Bill to Expand TANF to Ex-Offenders of Drug Possession Felonies
A bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) that will expand eligibility for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits to ex-offenders convicted of drug-possession felonies passed the Senate today with bipartisan support. The bill bears striking similarity to a 2005 law introduced by then-Delegate Bob McDonnell that provides the same expansion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Sen. Favola commented on her bill, saying, “The children of these ex-offenders are being forced to share the consequences of their parents’ past mistakes, and are unfairly starting their life off at a disadvantage. These individuals and their families need the opportunity to start on a new track and work toward a stable, productive life.”
Both Governor McDonnell’s 2005 food stamp law and Sen. Favola’s legislation are steps toward making social services more compassionate and fair by widening the safety net to include this group of ex-offenders. Under current law, someone who was convicted of murder in the first degree would be eligible to receive TANF benefits, yet a possession of marijuana felony would permanently bar someone from receiving help in times of need.
The federal government gives states the ability to opt out of this lifetime ban on receiving TANF for those convicted of drug possession felonies. According to the Legal Advocacy Center, as of December 2011, only twelve states, including Virginia, fully implement the ban and withhold TANF benefits for these needy individuals. Senator Favola’s bill aims to bring Virginia up to speed with the majority of the nation’s treatment of this group of ex-offenders.
If passed, families will be eligible to receive TANF benefits provided the ex-offender complies with all obligations imposed by the court and the Department of Social Services, is actively engaged in or has completed substance abuse treatment, and participates in periodic drug screenings.
Lt. Governor Bill Bolling has come out in favor of Medicaid expansion, a budget item that Senator Favola introduced this legislative session. This expansion will allow around 300,000 low-income Virginians to receive health care coverage, and offers vast economic and workforce advantages as well. Sen. Favola is delighted to have the support of our Lieutenant Governor, and is optimistic that the Virginia government can work across party lines to make this program successful.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s book is scheduled to be released in mid-February, and some excerpts that were released to the public are very troubling. At a press conference held yesterday, Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) and her colleagues commented on the disturbing language of the gubernatorial candidate that is reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks that helped to extinguish his presidential campaign last year.
An excerpt of the book reads: “Sometimes bad politicians set out to grow government in order to increase their own power and influence… One of their favorite ways to increase their power is by creating programs that dispense subsidized government benefits, such as Medicare, Social Security, and outright welfare. These programs make people depend on government, and once people are dependent, they feel they can’t afford to have the programs taken away, no matter how inefficient, poorly run, or costly to the rest of society.”
Sen. Favola spoke on this message, saying, “Ken Cuccinelli’s comments were shameful and hurtful. The Attorney General reiterated Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment, 30 percent of whom are veterans. He is telling these hard-working Virginians — people who fight our wars, put their life on the line to defend our liberty, people who build our homes, construct our bridges, and teach our kids — that they do not deserve to have financial or medical security at the end of the day when they retire.”
This afternoon, the Virginia Senate passed legislation introduced by Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) that will strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence during the 72 hours that an emergency protective order is in effect. The bill prohibits the perpetrator from possessing a firearm in the home of the victim during that period of time, creating a Class 1 misdemeanor for this offense.
Current Virginia law prohibits the transport and purchase of firearms in these situations, but this bill extends that security to the home of the victim. The need for this further protection is supported by the Virginia Sheriffs Association, the Virginia Coalition of Chiefs of Police, Association of Virginia Commonwealth Attorneys, and various advocacy groups.
Sen. Favola, a strong advocate for sensible gun control measures, spoke in support of her bill on the Senate floor today. She said, “ The Commonwealth needs more tools to reduce domestic violence and implement more effective interventions.”
The bill passed with just three dissenting votes, and will now be deliberated in the House of Delegates