RICHMOND, VA – As first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch yesterday evening, President Biden’s administration joined the growing chorus of criticism surrounding Governor Youngkin’s decision to stand opposed to the bipartisan SB 852, which would place limits on law enforcement’s ability to access Virginians’ menstrual data.
Without these limits, experts fear that this data may be used by the Youngkin administration to prosecute women who seek abortions. Last year, Governor Youngkin introduced a budget that included money to prosecute and imprison women who sought abortions, though Youngkin’s attempts to pass an abortion ban in Virginia have thus far been successfully thwarted by Democrats’ Senate majority.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: White House pounces on Youngkin over menstrual tracking bill
February 17, 2023 | Michael Martz
The White House is condemning Gov. Glenn Youngkin for helping to block state legislation that would have prevented police from using search warrants to seize data about women’s menstrual cycles on communications apps, but the governor isn’t backing down.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement on Friday afternoon that said the Youngkin administration’s effort to block the legislation “attacks the principles of freedom and a woman’s fundamental right to privacy in the United States of America.”
Jean-Pierre also cited the defeat of the Contraceptive Equality Act by a Republican-controlled subcommittee in the House of Delegates on Thursday, which she said “would have made it easier and more affordable for women to access contraception.”
“An overwhelming majority of the American people support these most basic measures and do not want their sensitive health data used by law enforcement,” the press secretary said on behalf of President Joe Biden. “The President stands with this majority and continues to believe politicians should let women make their own health care decisions.”
Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter responded to the White House statement by defending the governor’s position opposing the legislation and by challenging the president to limit the storing of health data she said is currently allowed in all states.
“Given that this in-state data collection is already legal in all 50 states, the White House should issue a nationwide executive order that implements the unsafe limits to data gathering that Virginia Democrats are proposing,” Porter said. “Governor Youngkin stands behind law enforcement and victims’ rights.”
The White House decision to intervene in a statehouse political fight reflects the national attention that has turned to Virginia after House Republicans killed Senate Bill 852, introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, on Monday. A House Courts of Justice subcommittee voted 5-3 along party lines to kill the bill after Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Maggie Cleary opposed the legislation as what she called an unprecedented limit on search warrants in police investigations.
The furor reflects the national political divide over abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned national protection of abortion rights under Roe v. Wade last summer, leading to a push by conservative states to adopt bans or restrictions on the procedure of varying severity and, in some cases, threaten prosecution of those who violate them.
“It is a bill that not only protects privacy, it protects women in the backdrop of these very serious, very draconian abortion bans,” Favola said in an interview on Friday. “The only reason you’d use a search warrant is to criminalize someone’s behavior.”
She said she had not spoken to the White House about the bill, but said in response to the statement, “I agree wholeheartedly. It just shows how extreme the Youngkin administration is.”
The legislation had passed the Virginia Senate on a 31-9 vote, with the backing of nine Senate Republicans, before reaching the House. With Republicans in control of the House and Democrats running the Senate, each chamber has been killing measures on hot-button legislation in the run-up to elections this fall for all 140 seats in the General Assembly.
On Friday, a House subcommittee killed Senate Bill 1243, proposed by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, to let Virginians sue companies that sell or release private, reproductive health data that may be stored on computer or cellphone apps. The bill also would have prevented other states from extraditing people from Virginia for prosecution for reproductive health services they provide here.
Surovell said the Youngkin administration did not appear before the House Courts of Justice subcommittee to oppose the bill, as it did Favola’s. The panel voted 5-3 on party lines to kill the legislation.
“Threats to women being hunted down and prosecuted are very real,” he said, citing statements by the Alabama attorney general and South Dakota governor on enforcing newly enacted restrictions on abortion.
“Virginia’s going to be a sanctuary for a lot of women who aren’t going to be able to get medical care in other states,” Surovell said. “We need to make sure that if women are coming here as refugees from other states that our systems are not going to be used by prosecutors out of state to target these women.”
Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, introduced Senate Bill 1112, the Contraceptive Equality Act, to ensure that low-income women have affordable access to contraceptive prescriptions and devices. Like Favola and Surovell’s bills, her legislation passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote, but died in a House Commerce and Energy subcommittee by a 5-3 party-line vote on Thursday.
In an interview on Friday, Hashmi said the Youngkin administration did not explicitly state its opposition to the bill, but she added, “I absolutely think there is hostility on the part of the governor and the administration to prevent women from getting access to reproductive health care.”
“Contraceptive care is ... medical care for many women,” she said.