March for Life
Virginia March for Life, April 2019

It hasn’t made many headlines, but there’s a major change coming to abortion law in Virginia.

Language in the newly-passed Virginia budget bill will for the first time prohibit the use of public funds for abortion except when required by Federal law.

Governor Ralph Northam signed the 2019 budget bill containing the language into law on Friday.

While fights over abortion in Richmond are typically media-intensive affairs with protests on both sides, the new restrictions were largely overshadowed by the scandals still surrounding the three Democrats leading the Executive Branch and a fight over the creation of a cap and trade program to fight global warming in Virginia.

Republicans who backed the change say it’s a long-needed development to give state taxpayers the same consideration that Congress has done in the Federal budget for years.

Known as the Hyde Amendment for its author, the late Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the measure first passed in 1976 and bars federal funding for abortion with limited exceptions for rape, incest, and save the life of the mother.

“It’s simply a matter of conscience,” said Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. “For those of us who believe that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life, supporting that with our tax dollars is intolerable.”

“Federal law limits what we can do in terms of limitations, but this amendment represents the single strongest step we’ve taken in decades to respect the value of all human life,” Gilbert said.

Republicans successfully wrote language into the 2019 Budget Bill that prohibits the use of public money for abortions, unless specifically required by Federal law.

Under the amendment, the Commonwealth will only pay for abortion under programs like Medicaid in the event of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Previously, state law also allowed public funding for abortions in the case of a child who would be born with disabilities.

Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, slammed the provisions, but still signed the budget bill containing the restrictive language.

“The General Assembly’s action is cruel and out of touch with the difficult reality some families face,” Northam wrote in his message to legislators.

“While the General Assembly has prohibited the use of state resources to deliver a critical service for Virginia families, I am hopeful that other medical providers in the Commonwealth are able to accommodate families in need,” he said.

While Northam took a number of actions on bills last week, his decision not to veto language in the budget that blocks Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a regional cap-and-trade program — drew most of the headlines.

The legislation takes effect on July 1.