Budget talks will continue at the State Capitol Monday.
A group of pro-life and faith communities are trying to draw attention to one item in the proposed two-year spending plan.
The Family Foundation of Virginia, the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia (SBCV) and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists (VAIB) are opposed to a pilot program that could become a reality in the Commonwealth.
It would use millions of dollars from a block grant to increase education about reproductive choices available to women in Virginia and expand access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).
LARCs are methods of birth control that are effective for extended periods of time without requiring the user to act on a regular basis, such as a pill. For example, IUDs, impants and injections.
The groups speaking out against the proposed pilot program said they are concerned where the money will end up.
“We want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are not going to fund the abortion industry,” said Josh Hetzler, legal counsel for The Family Foundation.
The groups said they fear LARC funding would “create a multi-million dollar slush fund for Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood is just one provider offering LARCs.
Ideally, those opposed to the idea would like the entire pilot program scrapped from the budget but would also support restrictions.
“At the very least, we want to make sure that, if this program is going to exist, that it go elsewhere. Other than these 15 abortion facilities in Virginia. There are 135 federally qualified clinics in Virginia that could implant these devices through this program. That would be a good start,” said Hetzler.
Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health care to millions of people worldwide.
On its website, it says LARCs are highly effective and safe.
In its most recent annual report, it said its affiliate health centers had 1,854,518 reversible contraception clients in 2016 and averted 398,721 unintended pregnancies through its contraceptive services.
Originally proposed as $12 million total in the House budget, an amendment reduces the amount to $2 million the first year and $4 million the second year of the proposed two-year pilot program.
It calls for “expanding access to subcuticular contraceptive implants through qualified health care providers reimbursed at Medicaid rates.”
The language of the amendment also requires that priority be given to expanding access to women with a substance abuse disorder diagnosis who choose a subcuticular contraceptive implant as their preferred family planning method.
Lawmakers face a June 30 deadline to sign off on a budget or they force a state government shutdown.