RICHMOND, Va. -- Despite outside speculation, there were no abortion bills brought before the Virginia General Assembly Wednesday, as lawmakers tied up some loose ends from their special session earlier in the year.
Still, the moment provided a glimpse into just how prevalent the issue will remain in a post-Roe environment.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobb’s decision that sent the issue of abortion rights back to states, activists in support of safe, legal abortion have focused on Virginia’s Capitol.
The procedure remains legal into the second trimester of pregnancy, but Republicans, who control the governor’s mansion and House of Delegates, want to place limits on it.
A group of activists gathered on the Capitol grounds Wednesday vowing to push back against any abortion rollbacks.
“Treatment for abortion care is the business of the person seeking the abortion and their healthcare provider. Politicians have absolutely no business inserting themselves in those decisions,” said Christine Payne, an RN in Virginia.
“The language used in restrictive abortion laws creates a gray area, left up for interpretation, leading providers wary of what they can and can’t do for fear of being criminally prosecuted,” said Meredith Hill, a Richmond mother who had two missed miscarriages. “How threatened does my life have to be before I can make my own health care decisions?”
Governor Glenn Youngkin and his fellow Republicans believe there is common ground to be had on the issue with some Virginia Democrats.
Youngkin said Wednesday he did not send a bill to the legislature now so that it could be properly thought through and considered.
“I told everybody I wasn’t sending down any legislation for the special session,” Youngkin said. “Post Roe v. Wade, the states are responsible for this, and I think there’s a place where we can talk about a bill where the child feels pain. That’d be a very good place for us to land as a Commonwealth.”
This summer, Youngkin tasked a group of Republicans with crafting a bill that would limit abortions in Virginia after 15 weeks. Sen. Steve Newman (R-Campbell) was one of them and said those discussions are in the early phases.
“There’s a lot of work to do on not only how to come up with a pain-capable bill but also how do we help mothers and children through the process,” Newman said.
Without the full text of bills to review, Delegate Emily Brewer (R-Isle of Wight) said she will not yet comment on what will happen down the line, but she said several voters in her conservative district approached her about limiting abortions following the Dobbs decision.
“A couple of months ago when Roe v. Wade was overturned, I was five months pregnant. Thinking about that process as an expectant mother, it was more profound than I could ever imagine,” Brewer said. “When I did interviews when I was five months pregnant, I could still have an abortion in Virginia, and I find the majority of Virginians probably find that unconscionable. I think people are really going to have to look, including legislators, introspectively about where they think life is.”
Virginia Democrats, who control the Virginia Senate, vowed to block and bills that chip away at abortion rights.
“We are seeing more patients coming here because they can’t get access to health care, and abortion is health care, in their own states,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) at the rally. “Rights can be taken away, and the court has put this fight back in that building.”
There will be no movement on abortion laws in Virginia until at least next January when the General Assembly reconvenes. Bills aimed at stiffening abortion laws in Virginia were defeated by Senate Democrats in committee this year prior to the Dobbs decision.
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