The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade launched a wave of statements from Virginia politicians on Friday. Abortion remains legal in Virginia with some limitations, and split control of Virginia’s government leaves both Republicans and Democrats seeking to use the issue to motivate their own voter base. Pro-choice protesters held multiple rallies across Virginia on Friday, with more planned for the weekend.
Governor Glenn Youngkin has largely been quiet about abortion, but on Friday he released two statements reacting to the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. Additionally, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said Youngkin is pushing for a 15-week abortion ban.
“Virginians elected a pro-life governor and he supports finding consensus on legislation. He has tapped Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron and Delegate Margaret Ransone to do so and prioritize protecting life when babies begin to feel pain in the womb, including a 15-week threshold,” Porter said in a statement.
Youngkin said in a statement, “The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states. I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions. We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life. That’s why I’ve asked Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron and Delegate Margaret Ransone to join us in an effort to bring together legislators and advocates from across the Commonwealth on this issue to find areas where we can agree and chart the most successful path forward. I’ve asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January.”
He followed that statement emphasizing Virginia’s need to respect the rule of law and said his administration would coordinate with law enforcement.
“Virginia will not stand for lawlessness or violence,” he said.
General Assembly Abortion Deadlock
Senate Education and Health Committee Chair Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) was instrumental in killing many Republican bills in the 2022 General Assembly session, including some abortion restrictions.
On Friday, she tweeted, “I am outraged by today’s Supreme Court ruling on abortion. As Chairman of the Virginia Senate Health Committee I will never allow any bill that restricts a woman’s right to choose to emerge from our committee. Virginia will remain open for choice.”
Although the Senate remains controlled by Democrats 21-19 this year and during the 2023 session, State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) says he’s pro-life. On paper, that makes the Senate Democratic majority vulnerable to Morrissey’s flip and a tie-breaking vote by Republican Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears. But in a vote a week ago that would have expanded a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions, Morrissey voted with Democrats against that expansion. Additionally, Democratic control of the committees means it would take extra, unusual procedural maneuvering to bring an abortion ban to the Senate floor.
That means both Republicans and Democrats are looking at 2024, after the 2023 House and Senate elections, to see the direction of abortion legality in Virginia.
Morrissey is already battling former Delegate Lashrecse Aird for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 13.
“I’m @lashrecseaird. I’m the Democrat who will replace the only anti-choice Democrat in the VA Senate. We can’t let him win,” Aird tweeted Friday.
Morrissey released a lengthy statement Friday stating his position, without committing support for either pro-life or pro-choice policies.
“It has always been and will continue to be my belief that government should not be telling women, or anyone for that matter what they can or cannot do with their bodies,” he said.
“I defend the position that women should have safe access to the procedure, at the very least, up to the moment a fetus can feel pain which many agree is 20 plus weeks of a pregnancy; in cases when a mother’s health or life is at risk; in cases of rape that result in a pregnancy, and in case of incest that result in a pregnancy. Just to be very clear: I do not believe the government, whether federal or state, should be telling women what to do with their bodies,” he said.
Virginia Now an Abortion Sanctuary
“Virginia is now an abortion rights sanctuary. With your help, I’ll do everything within my power to keep it that way,” Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) tweeted Friday.
The Code of Virginia allows abortions in the first and second trimester of pregnancy, and allows them in the third trimester if doctors agree that continuing the pregnancy could result in death of the mother “or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”
Tarina Keene, executive director of REPRO Rising, said in a Friday press release, “Today’s Supreme Court decision is cruel, dangerous, and devastating. The right to abortion has always been about control – who has the power to make personal decisions about our bodies, our lives, our families, and our futures. Today, six unelected justices took that power away from millions of Americans.”
“Although Virginia will not immediately criminalize abortion after the fall of Roe v. Wade – unlike 13 states with ‘trigger bans’ – advocates expect significant barriers to access as thousands of out-of-state patients travel to Virginia for care,” the release states.
A Planned Parenthood interactive graphic emphasizes that: on Virginia’s western and southern borders, many states are dark red, indicating significant abortion restrictions, while Virginia is pink for “Mostly Accessible.”
Virginia Society for Human Life President Olivia Turner told The Virginia Star, “All our strong pro-life laws were wiped about by the pro-abortion majority in 2020 under Governor Ralph Northam. So, where we stand right now, at this moment, even with a pro-life governor and pro-life majority in the House of Delegates, is that sadly, for the moment, Virginia will be a safe haven state for the practice of abortion with virtually no reasonable protections at all.”
Turner said it is necessary to keep the House Republican majority in the 2023 elections and gain a Republican majority in the Senate. She’s calling for legislative change beyond an abortion ban, including state support for pregnancy resource networks.
“If abortion is not legal in widespread circumstances across the country, perhaps finally, Americans at large will come to grips with the reality that women get pregnant. And we need solutions within our society that respect that and provide opportunities, protections, and solutions that give more options, rather than just saying, ‘The best we can do is tell you to go through with an abortion,’ and leave her in the same circumstances she was in,” she said
This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.