Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs measure backed by abortion-rights groups but vetoes others

Glenn Youngkin
Posted at 8:43 AM, Apr 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-06 08:48:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed 88 bills Friday and vetoed 11 others, including legislation that advocates said would have helped protect women and medical practitioners from potential extraditions related to abortion services that are legal in Virginia.

Youngkin said in a statement that the measures would undermine the nation's longstanding legal framework for extraditions. But in a move that surprised some observers, the governor signed separate legislation, which is supported by abortion rights groups, that prohibits the issuance of search warrants, subpoenas or court orders for electronic or digital menstrual health data.

“A mixed message from the Youngkin (administration) tonight,” Tarina Keene, executive director of abortion rights group REPRO Rising Virginia, said on social media.

Proponents said the legislation would protect women’s privacy and prevent such information — often stored in period-tracking apps — from being weaponized in potential prosecutions.

Sponsor Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat, said during a hearing that the measure is necessary in a post-Roe v. Wade environment as many Republican politicians — Youngkin among them — have sought new restrictions on abortion. Favola said she wasn't aware of an example where such data had been sought, but she wanted to be proactive.

Opponents said the measure seemed like a solution in search of a problem.

Youngkin’s press secretary, Christian Martinez, said in a statement that the governor believes the legislation, which nearly all legislative Republicans opposed, “protects a woman’s personal health data without preventing its voluntary use in law enforcement investigations.” Youngkin also appreciates Favola's work on the legislation, Martinez said.

Similar legislation last year died in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates before reaching the governor’s desk, but the administration made clear back then that Youngkin opposed it.

Some women in states with abortion bans increasingly must travel elsewhere to terminate a pregnancy, a reality that backers of the vetoed anti-extradition measure highlighted in pushing for its passage.

Youngkin said in a veto statement attached to the bill that the United States' “cooperative extradition system could collapse if individual states were to carve out crimes for which they would not recognize codified laws because of differing political positions.”

The governor also vetoed a bill that would have prohibited state regulators from taking disciplinary action against doctors for abortion care that's legal in Virginia, “regardless of where such abortion care was provided or received.”

Youngkin said that bill would open the door “to a resurgence of unsafe, risky abortions occurring outside of clinical settings, and it places any unprofessional behavior during an abortion outside the Board’s jurisdiction for disciplinary action.”

Democrats criticized Youngkin's vetoes.

“His veto of a bill that would have protected women who travel to the Commonwealth to get an abortion from being extradited is just another gross example of how Republicans will not stop until women have no options left,” party chairwoman Susan Swecker said in a statement.

Virginia, the only Southern state that has not enacted new restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, is increasingly an outlier in the region for its abortion access. Youngkin tried to implement a 15-week ban but was blocked by Democrats, who control the state Legislature.

Among the other bills he signed Friday were measures reinstating the Virginia Minority Business Commission and expanding a tax credit for secure storage devices for firearms. He vetoed a bill establishing a paid family and medical leave program, noting that some employers already offer such programs and calling the proposal unfair for exempting state government.

The governor also amended 11 bills, according to his office, including one allowing the city of Petersburg to pursue a referendum on establishing Virginia’s fifth casino.

Petersburg's renewed push for a casino comes after voters in Richmond — which had initially received General Assembly approval to hold a referendum — twice rejected the idea. Youngkin's change would remove from the bill a requirement that the Legislature take it up again next year.

Youngkin faces a Monday deadline to complete his review of legislation sent to him during the regular session that ended in March.

Lawmakers convene April 17 in Richmond to take up his proposed amendments and could also attempt to override his vetoes. But Democrats hold narrow majorities in both chambers, short of the required two-thirds threshold.



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