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Virginia governor called ‘zealot on social issues’ in lieu of props on abortion, gay adoption

On Wednesday, Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly will try to quash Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell’s proposed amendment to ban state insurance exchanges created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from paying for abortions. This includes private insurance providers that participate in the exchanges.*

The General Assembly earlier this year passed legislation to create and operate its own state-run health benefits exchange that meet the requirements of the federal health care act. Attached to that bill is the governor’s amendment to “ensure that no qualified health insurance plan … shall provide coverage for abortions, regardless of whether such coverage is provided through the plan or is offered as a separate optional rider thereto,” unless an abortion is to be performed to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of an alleged act of rape or incest.

Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) on Tuesday called the governor a “zealot on social issues,” as reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in response to the governor’s efforts, though she told reporters the Senate vote on the governor’s abortion amendment will be “close,” as it passed last session with the help of two anti-abortion rights Senate Democrats and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bollingm, who broke the tie.

On Tuesday, abortion-rights groups NARAL Pro-Choice, Planned Parenthood and the Virginia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union along with Democratic state lawmakers called on McDonnell to withdraw the amendment in the health exchange bill, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, though many believe the bill will pass with the amendment. The health exchange bill is among more than 130 changes to bills and nearly 90 budget amendments the state legislature will vote on during Wednesday’s special session.

In addition, McDonnell is considering whether or not to quash proposed regulations by the State Board of Social Services to allow unmarried gay and straight couples to -– for the first time -– adopt gay children in Virginia, reports The Washington Post. The governor has until April 16 to make his recommendation on the adoption regulations and is being pushed by conservative lobbying groups to kill the proposal.

*Updated April 7, 12:40 p.m., for clarification.

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