April 6, 2013
Governor Bob McDonnell spoke with students at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia on Friday, just days after the General Assembly narrowly passed the governor's amendment on abortion coverage. It was his first public speech since the legislation passed, and students were quick to ask him about it.
McDonnell defended the bill, saying "The bill I amended set some rules for the federal exchange." Those rules include banning abortion coverage to people in Virginia who buy their insurance through the federal health exchange, which is part of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, set to go into effect next year.
During a Q & A session at the Batten School, McDonnell defended the legislation by saying he didn't want taxpayers footing the bill for abortions.
"Essentially reflecting this idea in the policy of an exchange, taxpayer resources would not be used to pay for abortion related services, so that's why I did it," McDonnell said.
But some students argued the policy discriminates against women and the poor, and will cost taxpayers more in the long run.
"The fact of the matter is, if you're denying access to abortions to poor people, you're going to either have more poor babies that can't be well-supported or you're going to have back alley abortions that are more destructive and incur even greater medical costs to the taxpayer," said Matt Menezes, a student completing his Masters at the Batten School.
Menezes said he disagreed with the Governor on a policy level in this case. "The idea that the state, on a whim, gets to decide how federally administered dollars are spent, and can dictate the social policies of the state but on the federal government's dime, that seems really perverse to me."
Menezes also said these types of socially conservative policies are what's driving a wedge between the Republican party and young voters. "I personally feel alienated from any political group that wants to impose rules like that. I feel like I will continue to be alienated, as my sister gets older and the women in my life that I love choose to be sexually active and they should be able to contain the course of their lives as they choose. Any political group that tries to prevent that is going to lose my vote and their respect and generally make itself obsolete."
When Menezes asked Governor McDonnell about the abortion legislation, the Governor joked he wasn't getting any "softball questions" from the crowd. Along with taking questions about his policy decisions, Governor McDonnell encouraged students to lead with humility.