by Brandon Jarvis

Gov. Glenn Youngkin amended the Right to Contraception Act passed by the General Assembly to instead make it a “Section 1” bill, which essentially turns the bill into a study or suggestion and does not codify it into law.

The original bill would have established a right to obtain and use contraceptives while also creating a cause of action against anyone who infringes on that right.

“Governor Youngkin had an opportunity to break with extremists in his party and stand with Virginians by signing the Right to Contraception Act,” said Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, and Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News, the sponsors of the legislation in the Senate and House. “Instead, he chose to gut the legislation, deleting protections for people to use IUDs, condoms, birth control pills, and emergency contraceptives and erasing the mechanism for Virginians to ensure that our rights are enforced. By introducing it as a ‘Section 1’ bill, Governor Youngkin’s substitute would effectively make it a suggestion rather than a law and leave our rights up to the whims of the people in power.”

Currently, the right to contraception is protected by two Supreme Court decisions, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972).

In Griswold, the Court recognized that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses the right of married people to obtain contraceptives.

The courts extended these rights to single people in Eisenstadt.

However, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022, Justice Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion that in future cases, the Court should reconsider precedents that relied on the same principles as Roe – including Griswold.

This has advocates worried that contraception will be the next target for the anti-choice movement.

Youngkin cited Griswold and Eisenstadt in his amendment.

He wrote, “It shall be the public policy of the Commonwealth, independently of the requirements of the Constitution of the United States, that individuals possess the right to access contraception as set forth in Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird.”

Hashmi and Price accused the governor of giving lip service to avoid bothering either side of the debate.

“Governor Youngkin is trying to have it both ways, paying lip service to contraception because he has heard the voices of Virginians loud and clear,” they wrote in their joint statement.”He knows this legislation is supported by the vast majority of Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters, yet he’s too afraid to break with MAGA extremists by signing the bill. Reproductive rights are under attack. We need a law, not a non-binding policy statement. Both chambers should reject the substitute, and the governor should sign the original bills.”

“Governor Youngkin has been consistently clear that he supports access to contraception,” said Youngkin’s press secretary, Christian Martinez. “His amendment to SB237 and SB238 reflect his desire to protect Virginians’ constitutional rights. This is an opportunity to do both and to suggest that the Governor doesn’t support access to contraception would be wholeheartedly misrepresenting the facts.” 

The General Assembly meets on April 17 to take up the governor’s proposed amendments.

By vascope