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Q&A with the Virginia Senator who sponsored the state’s Right to Contraception Act

The General Assembly passed the Right to Contraception Act, which protects Virginians' access to birth control methods like pills, IUDs and condoms. (Photo via Shutterstock)
The General Assembly passed the Right to Contraception Act, which protects Virginians' access to birth control methods like pills, IUDs and condoms. (Photo via Shutterstock)


Virginia lawmakers sent a bill to Governor Glenn Youngkin this week that solidifies Virginians’ right to access birth control.

Richmond-area Sen. Ghazala Hashmi carried the Senate version of the Right to Contraception Act, which would protect Virginians’ right to get condoms, birth control pills, IUDs and plan B.

WHRO’s Mechelle Hankerson spoke to Hashmi about the legislation and its future now that it’s on Gov. Youngkin’s desk.

This interview was edited for time and clarity.

Q&A with Richmond-area Sen. Ghazala Hashmi

Mechelle Hankerson: You introduced the Right to Contraception Act, which passed the Senate and the House of delegates as of this week. What does that change for Virginians? 

Sen. Ghazala Hashmi: Right now, it doesn't change anything, but it adds protection mainly. And that is protection to ensure that people in Virginia continue to have access to contraception and to information about contraception and retain the right to use contraception. So it is a very critical and necessary step given the direction that we've seen some other states moving. So this is a protective measure that ensures that Virginians continue to have access to contraceptive care. 

M.H: A lot of legislation gets filed months before you guys get to Richmond. What was going through your mind when you filed this? Was there anything in the last six months to a year that really alarmed you? 

Sen. Hashmi: The alarm bells have been ringing in the ways in which many states have created restrictive barriers around abortion access. And there has been considerable discussion among many state legislatures to also restrict contraceptive care. 

And I think one of the most challenging points of this discussion is that so often we see a conflation between abortion and birth control. And so when groups are talking about restricting abortion, that language often spills into discussion around restricting birth control and contraception. We knew we had to take action, just given the heightened discussion around the country and some of the real threats that we have seen in some states. 

M.H: Do you think Governor Glenn Youngkin will be supportive? 

Sen. Hashmi: He has not indicated support, but I think if he is going to be responsive to what the overwhelming majority of Virginians want, he will sign it. 

Protecting contraceptive access is, I think, an easy decision. And I certainly think the Governor should be quite open to listening to what our advocate communities have been saying, what the majority of Virginians are asking us to do and certainly he should sign the bill. 

M.H: When you came in as senator in 2020, the General Assembly and the Governor's Mansion were all held by Democrats. As far as you understand, why didn't Virginia Democrats get something like this passed when the path would have been much easier? 

Sen. Hashmi: You know, I don't think we recognized the urgency, especially around contraceptive protections, and no precedent had been overturned in the manner that it was by the Supreme Court. And, I think we didn't anticipate that any Supreme Court in its right mind would make the kind of disastrous decision that it did with Dobbs. 

Even in 2020, Virginia moved to basically codify Roe v. Wade in our Constitution. We rolled back a lot of the restrictive abortion laws that were in place, the trap laws that passed under Republican control. We really made huge progress in 2020, and that is what has protected Virginia now in the face of what we're seeing.

Virginia is the last state in the southern region to protect abortion access. We're seeing medical refugees from other southern states coming to Virginia to get the kind of health care services that they need as their clinics are closing, as their doctors are leaving and as they are not being provided with essential care that every person deserves.

Mechelle is News Director at WHRO. She helped launch the newsroom as a reporter in 2020. She's worked in newspapers and nonprofit news in her career. Mechelle lives in Virginia Beach, where she grew up.

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