Protests to reopen Virginia take on partisan tone, abortions at the center

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Protests to reopen the economy are taking on a partisan tone.

With another rally scheduled in Richmond tomorrow, the Republican Party of Virginia is accusing Gov. Ralph Northam of putting his party’s ideology over public health. Meanwhile, the state’s Democratic Party is calling Republicans “unhinged” for their efforts to undermine the governor and score “cheap political points” ahead of the drive-by demonstration.

PRIOR COVERAGE: More Virginians plan to protest Northam’s stay-at-home order Wednesday

In a recent statement, the RPV mocked the governor’s calls for unity during the pandemic, arguing “When the State bans dentists because it’s unsafe, but deems an abortion safe, it’s not about your health.”

The statement references Northam’s decision not to include abortions under his executive order banning elective surgeries, an effort to preserve personal protective equipment for the treatment coronavirus. In fact, the same order allowing “family planning” services to continue also permits dental procedures where delays could lead to worsening conditions.

The criticism comes as at least seven conservative governors are being challenged in the courts for their efforts to ban abortion during the pandemic. Texas’ ban has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation, said the abortion industry shouldn’t be getting special treatment at a time where all industries are making sacrifices.

“Gov. Northam is putting the profits of the $1 billion dollar abortion industry above the health and safety of all Virginians,” Cobb said. “Ideology on this shouldn’t be driving the decisions at this moment.”

“It’s the very last place that a woman should be in the middle of a pandemic,” Cobb continued.

Shanthi Ramesh, OBGYN and medical director for the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said abortions are an essential procedure that cannot be delayed.

“The earlier in pregnancy you have an abortion the safer it is,” Ramesh said. “So for patients, being delayed even days to weeks could mean that they can’t access care at all.” 

Ramesh said, after 10 weeks of pregnancy, taking an abortion pill is no longer an option. Ramesh said temporary bans on the procedure in other states have forced patients to break travel guidelines during the pandemic.

“We actually have seen patients travelling from out of state to seek abortion care in Virginia,” Ramesh said. “It’s the patients that don’t have the means to travel that will end up being the most impacted.”

Ramesh said she’s still seeing the same volume of patients at her clinic–about 15 to 20 per day–with some procedural changes to keep everyone safe.

For example, Virginia law currently requires women to have two appointments to get an abortion. During the first appointment, Ramesh said patients have been coming in for their ultrasound and then doing the in-depth counseling session remotely.

“We have made major changes to our operating procedures in terms of doing more telehealth, trying to limit the amount of people that are in our health centers at a single time for social distancing,” Ramesh said.


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