Republicans in the Virginia legislature still don't trust women to make their own health care decisions -- they just don't want to talk about it publicly anymore.
Following the Tea Party victory here in 2009, Republicans began implementing a devastating agenda behind their ideological leader, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. They put our Commonwealth in the national spotlight by enacting a series of embarrassing and demeaning women's health policies.
Who could forget the infamous mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, which requires women to submit to an invasive, unnecessary procedure as a prerequisite for constitutionally-protected medical care?
Virginia also passed legislation creating targeted regulations that are so unfair and overly burdensome that they would effectively eliminate a number of reproductive health care providers, even those that provide other critical medical services, including things like mammograms. These regulations -- commonly referred to as TRAP laws -- provide unnecessary obstacles to Constitutional rights, and limit women's access to health care.
While Republicans aren't backing off their anti-choice agenda, they're no longer interested in discussing it. Already this year, Republicans in Richmond have very quickly -- and very quietly -- brushed under the rug any legislative attempt by my colleagues and me to fix the incredible damage done by Cuccinelli and his allies like Republican Attorney General candidates Mark Obenshain and Rob Bell in the legislature.
In fact, it took less than a month for Republican leaders to "consider" and reject legislation to restore women's rights.
Time and time again, Cuccinelli and his allies have used these assaults on women's health to further their ideological agenda. Never mind that these policies will hurt Virginia families; the important thing for our AG is whether the legislation satisfies his radical agenda.
But if one thing was made clear in 2012, it's this: Voters in Virginia and across the country will not tolerate these attacks on women. We assumed that Cuccinelli and his protégés Mark Obenshain and Rob Bell got the message -- after all, voters spoke very, very clearly in November. But sadly, and disturbingly, we were wrong.
Our position is very simple and widely supported outside the extremist circles that dominate our state government: Personal medical decisions should be left to a woman and her doctor. But the laws being pushed by Cuccinelli and his backers reject that fundamental premise.
While Republicans have shut down any legislative recourse, we still have one final opportunity to fight these attacks on women's health and restore equal rights to all Virginians. In order for the new, targeted regulations on women's health facilities to take effect, the Virginia Board of Health must approve them. Right now, the Board is accepting public comments until March 29. If the comment period ends and the Board approves the new regulations, they will go into effect and reproductive health providers in Virginia will effectively be shut down.
It's no mistake that Republicans are trying to make this all go away quietly. They know that a large-scale, public outcry directed at the Board of Health -- demanding that they listen to medical experts and not radical politicians -- could spell defeat for their agenda.
Public pressure is our only hope now. Women's health and civil rights organizations across Virginia are fighting to ensure that women have the legal protection to make their own health decisions. We must stand with them.
We have until March 29 to convince the Board of Health that these unfair regulations would hurt Virginia women -- that this is nothing more than politics at its worst. We need you to add your voice by signing our petition here, which we will deliver to the Board of Health.
This is our last chance to defeat Cuccinelli and turn back his attacks on women's health. If these regulations are approved, millions of Virginians will suffer. It's up to all of us to make our voices heard -- before it's too late.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that comments were open until March 31. Comments close on March 29.