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January 13, 2000


Communications Department

Gov. Gilmore Calls For New Abortion Restrictions While Virginia Still Doesn't Comply with Current Federal Law

Mentally Disabled Rape Victim's Abortion Delayed Three Weeks Because of State's Non-compliance with Federal Law

Washington, DC - The National Abortion Federation (NAF) today responded to Governor Gilmore's call for additional abortion restrictions in the state of Virginia: "Before putting new laws in place, Virginia needs to abide by the ones already in existence," said Vicki Saporta, Executive Director.

Under the federal Hyde amendment, Medicaid in each state is required to cover abortion in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. In June of last year, NAF learned that a Virginia woman who had been raped was told repeatedly by state Medicaid officials that Medicaid would not cover her abortion. It was only when the Richmond Times-Dispatch covered the story that the administration agreed to pay for the woman's abortion. Dr. Anne Peterson, Acting Director of the Virginia Department of Health, was quoted in the newspaper as saying that while Medicaid only covers abortion in cases of life endangerment, the Department of Health does pay for abortions in rape and incest cases. Dr. Peterson claimed that the state government would begin immediately contacting local health departments, rape crisis centers and family planning facilities to clear up any confusion about the state's policies regarding abortion coverage for low-income women.

"To our knowledge, none of our member clinics in Virginia have been contacted by the Department of Health," said Saporta. "Now we have a new case of a mentally disabled woman who had her abortion needlessly postponed by the same health officials who are supposed to help her."

Last month, the disabled woman's mother discovered her daughter was pregnant. Because of the woman's disability - she functions at a 4 year-old level - the police were immediately brought in for a rape investigation. Calls to the Norfolk Health Department, Medicaid, Social Services, and the Commonwealth Attorney's office all produced different information about securing coverage for the procedure. The Department of Health even stated that there would be a 45-day delay in obtaining an abortion. The abortion was in fact delayed three weeks while the mother attempted to access funding. The woman was finally able to have an abortion because a clinic agreed to apply for reimbursement from the state after the procedure. The clinic has not yet been reimbursed.

"If the clinic had not stepped in, this girl may very well have been unable to access the health care she needed," said Saporta. "Last June, the Department of Health promised that it would remove the barriers for women who are the victims of rape and incest. It's time that they followed up on that promise."


The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.

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