RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia House Republicans rejected a last-ditch effort to force a vote on a proposal that would let voters decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) proposed a rule change last week seeking to force a floor vote Thursday on a constitutional amendment that a Republican-led House panel already defeated along party lines.

Democrats and Republicans clashed over Del. Simon’s proposed resolution in the run-up to Thursday.

Republican state delegates labeled the proposed constitutional amendment as “extreme,” saying it would allow abortions up until the point of birth.

Democrats, who previously said Republicans were “scared to death to go on the record against women,” accused GOP lawmakers of avoiding a vote on abortion rights ahead of elections in November.

Del. Simon said he offered to work with Republicans concerned about language in the amendment, saying on the House floor Wednesday that his resolution would have allowed for changes to be made but that nobody reached out to find a compromise.

“Voters need to know where we stand on this issue because we have elections coming up in November,” Simon said on the floor. “They deserve to see us vote, see how we vote, see what we think on this issue. We need to have this vote so they can see and they can make up their minds for themselves when November comes.”

For the second straight year, the Republican-led House opted not to bring forward proposals from GOP state delegates to restrict abortion in Virginia because of the Democrats’ ability to block them in the state Senate, which the chamber did with their own bills again this year.

One of those Republican lawmakers, Del. Kathy Byron (Bedford), carried the 15-week abortion ban proposal backed by Youngkin. She spoke after Simon on Wednesday, telling the House she wanted to address the “manipulative and misleading arguments” from Democrats.

“Let us be honest and direct about exactly what this proposed amendment to our constitution would do,” Del. Byron said. “It would remove all restrictions on abortion, including the parental notification requirement and prohibitions on taxpayer-funded abortions.”

Multiple Democrats sponsored constitutional amendments to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution, both of which were killed by a House Courts of Justice subcommittee.

The proposed constitutional amendment could have only made it on ballots as a referendum if it passed two years in a row — with House of Delegates elections in between. If passed by voters, it would have enshrined abortion access in the state code by ensuring the “right to make and effectuate one’s own decisions about all matters related to one’s pregnancy.”

The only exception would be if there was a “compelling state interest,” which the proposal defined as “when it is to ensure the protection of the health of an individual seeking care, consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine.”

Del. Byron and other Republicans claimed the constitutional amendment would allow “abortion on demand,” including to the moment of birth. She disputed arguments that blocking the amendment would be harmful to mothers, saying Wednesday that Virginia law already prioritizes a woman’s health and life during abortions.

Under current state law, abortions are allowed up until the end of the second trimester of pregnancy — or about 26 weeks — and only after that point when three doctors conclude it would likely “result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”

A recent Wason Center poll found 43% of Virginia voters want to keep the state’s abortion laws in place, with 29% backing fewer restrictions and 23% wanting tighter rules on the procedure.

Del. Candi Mundon King (D-Prince William) called on Republicans to stop making “excuses” and that women and their doctors should be making decisions about reproductive health, not “misguided politicians.”

“We’re tired of the excuses. We’re tired of you trying to control our bodies,” Del. King said after Del. Byron spoke Wednesday. “And we’re tired of my colleagues on the other side exploiting women during their darkest period and making light of those who face fatal complications in a pregnancy.”

When it came time to vote Thursday, a motion to defeat Del. Simon’s resolution was proposed and approved 50-45.

“The choice to have an abortion is a personal decision between a person who is pregnant and their doctors… not themselves, their doctorsand state legislators,” Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), who introduced the House’s version of the amendment, said in a statement. “This is about cementing the rights already laid out in Virginia code— nothing about this amendment is more extreme than that.” 

All 140 seats in the Virginia General Assembly are on the ballot this November.