Jun 27, 2022 - News

The post-Roe abortion debate in Virginia

People, mostly women, march in downtown  Richmond. About 100 people. in the picture.
Protesters march on Broad Street on Friday evening. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

The Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade immediately thrust abortion back to the forefront of Virginia politics.

What's happening: Moments after the decision came down Friday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin told the Washington Post he'll pursue a ban on the procedure after 15 weeks.

  • By midday, Democratic leaders had assembled in Capitol Square, where they promised to block any new restrictions.
  • And by evening, more than 1,000 protesters had assembled on Broad Street between Capitol Square and City Hall to decry the court's ruling.

What they're saying: Youngkin said he asked four Republican lawmakers to develop legislation he hoped would find bipartisan support, saying that he'd settle for a ban after 20 weeks. Currently abortion is available with no restrictions until 25 weeks of pregnancy.

  • "I am not someone who is going to jump in and try to push us apart. … There is a place we can come together," he told the Post.

The other side: Democrats, who in 2020 repealed restrictions the GOP had put in place mandating a pre-abortion ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period, scoffed at the suggestion they would support any new restrictions.

  • "Make no mistake — we will protect a person's right to choose in Virginia," the Senate Democratic caucus, which holds a one-seat majority in the chamber, said in a statement.

Between the lines: Even with state Sen. Joe Morrissey, a Richmond Democrat who says he supports some abortion restrictions, as a potential swing vote, few seem to think there's a serious chance of new abortion restrictions passing unless Republicans win control of the Senate in next year's elections.

  • As recently as a few months ago, GOP leadership in the state House killed their own member's bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks because they said it couldn't pass in the Senate.

Context: The last time the party went on the offensive with abortion legislation was 2012, when, as initially drafted, their mandatory ultrasound bill would have required the use of an invasive transvaginal procedure, earning national media attention and sparking furious protests at Capitol Square.

  • The final bill required an abdominal ultrasound.

Building anger was already evident over the weekend, between protests and surging donations to pro-abortion rights organizations.

  • Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia told Axios donations have surged more than 1,000% since the ruling came down.

What's next: Longtime political analyst Bob Holsworth predicted the decision's biggest impact will be felt in the coming elections.

  • "This issue is now going to be front and center, not only in the two or three most competitive congressional races, but in the legislative races in 2023," Holsworth told Axios.
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