Virginia's Senate approved a new budget to fund state operations for the next two years, something that it failed to do during its regular session.
The 35-4 vote came after the Senate, on a party-line vote, rejected a Democratic amendment that would have compelled either insurance companies or the state to pay the costs of pre-abortion ultrasound exams that will become mandatory in July. The floor amendment failed 19-20. It was a major part of a package of concessions the Senate's 20 Democrats demanded in exchange for dropping their unified opposition to the $85 billion two-year budget supported by the Senate's 20 Republicans. It would have required insurers to cover the costs of the ultrasound exams and designated $3.2 million in state money to pay for the required exams for uninsured women.
Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw said the passage of the mandated abdominal ultrasound as a Republican-backed “informed consent” abortion restriction obligated the state to compel insurers or the state to cover the costs. Otherwise, he argued, it amounted to an unfunded mandate.
Republicans countered that the procedure was available at low cost or even for free from some health departments.
The payments would have applied only to clinics that perform five abortions or fewer annually, an accommodation to GOP opposition to state funding of Planned Parenthood.
Monday's budget passage now sets up lengthy negotiations with the House of Delegates to resolve differences between their rival versions of the budget.