Virginia Democrats defeat bills limiting abortion access

Jan 25, 2023, 5:37 PM | Updated: Jan 26, 2023, 4:40 pm
FILE - Virginia Gov. Youngkin delivers his State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of ...

FILE - Virginia Gov. Youngkin delivers his State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the Virginia legislature in the House chamber in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 11, 2023. Virginia Senate Democrats defeated several bills Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, that would have restricted abortion access in the state, including a proposed 15-week ban with exceptions that was a priority for Youngkin. (AP Photo/John C. Clark, File)

(AP Photo/John C. Clark, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — In a series of key votes Thursday, Virginia Senate Democrats defeated several bills that would have restricted abortion access in the state, including a proposed 15-week ban with exceptions that was a priority for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

They are the first decisive legislative votes in Virginia since the Supreme Court’s decision last year overturning Roe v. Wade. The votes mean that barring an extraordinary procedural move, such restrictions are unlikely to be enacted this year in Virginia, which currently has some of the South’s most permissive abortion laws.

“The truth is, as long as Senate Democrats have our majority, the brick wall will stand strong and these extreme bills will never pass,” Sen. L. Louise Lucas said in a news conference after the hearing.

Several similar measures are still alive in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates but have not yet begun to advance. Anything that clears the House is likely to also be defeated in the Senate.

Republican House Speaker Todd Gilbert said earlier this year that given Virginia’s divided government, he didn’t expect major progress on abortion this year.

Youngkin’s spokeswoman, Macaulay Porter, said Senate Democrats had “solidified their extreme position” and were acting against the will of Virginians who want “a reasonable compromise” on the issue.

Virginia law currently allows abortion during the first and second trimesters. The procedure may be performed during the third trimester only if multiple physicians certify that continuing the pregnancy is likely to “substantially and irremediably” impair the mental or physical health of the woman or result in her death.

On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Education and Health, which Lucas chairs, voted the three measures down on a party-line basis and without debate after a subcommittee had previously heard testimony and recommended that they be defeated.

The Youngkin-backed measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Steve Newman, would have banned abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life or physical well-being of the woman. Violations by any physician would result in a class four felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Newman called the proposal a carefully crafted compromise “that supports mothers” and offers “commonsense protection for the unborn.” He said the measure would not affect medical care in cases of miscarriage, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancies.

“In no way does this bill criminalize a woman at all,” he said in presenting it earlier this month.

The committee also defeated a less restrictive measure from Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, who is an OB-GYN. Her bill would have added new limits on third-trimester abortions, allowing them only in cases where the woman’s life is at risk.

It would have allowed abortions through the second trimester before viability, defined as either 24 weeks or 22 weeks, if three physicians agree.

Dunnavant argued that medical advances since current Virginia law was written have moved the date of viability earlier in a pregnancy.

“When a child can live outside of the womb, there’s absolutely no reason to abort that child in order to protect the mother,” she said.

Her bill was voted down 9-6.

Dunnavant, a member of the committee, was not present for the in-person vote, which drew criticism from Democrats. Dunnavant said she was simply late for the meeting and noted her vote was recorded later.

The third bill defeated was from Republican Sen. Travis Hackworth. It would have banned nearly all abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the woman, and made performing an “unlawful abortion” a class four felony.

“All three of the dangerous anti-abortion proposals before this committee represented grave threats to Virginians’ health and rights, and we are thrilled to now celebrate their defeat,” Jamie Lockhart, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said in a statement.

The outcome was not surprising. Senate Democrats had promised since last year’s Roe decision to defeat any effort to curtail abortion access.

But the election of Democratic Sen. Aaron Rouse in a special election this month has given their caucus more breathing room. Rouse flipped a seat previously held by a Republican, adding one more vote to Democrats’ narrow control of the chamber.

One Democratic senator, Joe Morrissey, has previously indicated a willingness to support additional abortion restrictions, even through the use of an unusual floor procedure that before Rouse’s victory potentially could have allowed the Republican lieutenant governor to cast a tie-breaking vote.

in 2020, Democrats, at the time in full control of state government, expanded abortion access and eased certain clinic restrictions, pledging to make the state a “safe haven” in the South.

This year they are attempting to advance a proposal that would enshrine a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” in the state Constitution.

Republicans argue the amendment would remove all limits on elective abortion. Its sponsor, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, has said that’s not the case and its intent is to codify the legal framework that existed at the federal level before the Supreme Court’s decision last year.

That proposal will almost certainly die if it reaches the House.

The future of Virginia’s abortion laws could be determined this fall, when every legislative seat will be on the ballot.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
24 hours ago
FILE - Hiring signs are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Jan. 13, 2023. Emp...
Associated Press

Pay transparency is spreading. Here’s what you need to know

U.S. employers are increasingly posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it’s not required by law, according to analysts with several major job search websites.
24 hours ago
Meadowdale High School 9th grade students Juanangel Avila, right, and Legacy Marshall, left, work t...
David Klepper and Manuel Valdes, Associated Press

Seattle high school teacher advocates for better digital literacy in schools

Shawn Lee, a high school social studies teacher in Seattle, wants to see lessons on internet akin to a kind of 21st century driver's education, an essential for modern life.
24 hours ago
South Carolina Senators hear from the parents of people who died from fentanyl overdose on Jan. 19,...
Associated Press

With overdoses up, states look at harsher fentanyl penalties

State lawmakers nationwide are responding to the deadliest overdose crisis in U.S. history by pushing harsher penalties for possessing fentanyl and other powerful lab-made opioids that are connected to about 70,000 deaths a year.
24 hours ago
FILE - In this July 3, 2014, file photo, the Microsoft Corp. logo is displayed outside the Microsof...
Associated Press

Microsoft adds AI tools to Office apps like Outlook, Word

Microsoft is infusing artificial intelligence tools into its Office software, including Word, Excel and Outlook emails.
4 days ago
FILE - This photo provided by the Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey shows the Tanag...
Associated Press

Alaska volcanoes now pose lower threat, after quakes slow

Diminished earthquake activity led authorities Thursday to reduce the warning levels at two volcanoes on an uninhabited island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain because of the decreased potential for eruptions.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Virginia Democrats defeat bills limiting abortion access