With the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced he will seek a bipartisan coalition to change the state’s abortion laws and suggested a pain threshold bill, but Democrats seem resistant to such plans.
“The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states,” the governor said in a statement Friday. “I'm proud to be a pro-life governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life.”
Youngkin said he intends to work with lawmakers to find a bipartisan consensus on bills that would reduce the number of abortions in the commonwealth. He reached out to four lawmakers to work on bills to be ready when the legislature meets in January. Those lawmakers are Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, Sen. Steve Newman, R-Forest, Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford and Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland.
“The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions,” the governor added. “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. …I've asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January.”
On Friday morning, the Supreme Court ruled a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks is constitutional. This overturned precedent set in Roe V. Wade and Planned Parenthood V. Casey, which prohibited states from banning abortion before the viability of the fetus, which is around 24 weeks. The new ruling, however, found that there is no constitutional right to an abortion and will allow states to set their own rules.
Some states have pre-Roe laws that ban or restrict abortion or trigger laws that ban or restrict abortion immediately upon Roe V. Wade being overturned. However, Virginia law already allows abortion in the first and second trimesters, which means that the decision will not immediately affect laws in the commonwealth. To restrict abortion, lawmakers will need to pass a bill that is then signed by the governor.
Many Republicans support further restricting abortion, but many Democratic lawmakers have vowed to fight those efforts. Currently, Republicans have a narrow majority in the House of Delegates, but Democrats have a narrow majority in the Senate.
"All Virginians want fewer abortions, not more, and House Republicans stand ready to achieve that goal,” House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement. “Our Caucus is ready to work with Democrats to protect the life of unborn children, particularly those who science has proven can feel pain in the womb. I sincerely hope that Democrats will end their use of scare tactics and work with Republicans as the people of Virginia expect.”
Senate Republican leaders issued a joint statement, which states their intent to consider pro-life legislation.
“This reversal of the Court’s previous decisions undoubtedly will result in lawmakers of both parties introducing legislation for the General Assembly to consider during its 2023 regular session,” the statement read. “Senate Republicans stand ready to fulfill our duty by giving a fair hearing to legislation related to all perspectives on this and every issue. …We hope our Democratic colleagues will reconsider their extremism on the issue of life, and join us in restoring practical, sensible, and reasonable policies that ensure the health and safety of mothers and protect the lives of our most vulnerable Virginians.”
Virginia Senate Democrats issued a statement, which expresses their plans to prevent attempts to restrict abortion access.
“For decades, Republicans in Virginia and across the nation have done their best to restrict a person’s right to medical privacy when it comes to abortion and reproductive health services,” the statement read. “While these efforts will no doubt be redoubled with the fall of Roe v. Wade today, Senate Democrats remain strong to protect the right to choose in the Commonwealth and will not back down in the face of these incoming threats—any others that might come next. Make no mistake—we will protect a person’s right to choose in Virginia.”
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, echoed those sentiments.
"The Supreme Court has just overturned Roe v. Wade in a staggering rollback of human rights,” Filler-Corn told The Center Square. “Don't think they will stop here. While abortion access remains legal in VA today, I will continue fighting daily to protect our rights and the rights of our daughters. This isn't over."
Republican lawmakers introduced pro-life legislation before Roe V. Wade being overturned, but those attempts were blocked by Senate Democrats. Those proposals included a 20-week abortion ban and a bill that would have required doctors to provide life-saving care to infants if they are born alive after a failed abortion.