RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Republican state delegate has proposed a bill that would ban abortions in Virginia after 20 weeks unless the mother faces a risk of death or serious damage to a major bodily function.
Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) filed HB 1274, titled the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” in the Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday.
“The Act prohibits an abortion after 20 weeks gestation unless, in reasonable medical judgment, the mother has a condition that so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function,” the measure reads.
With Gov. Glenn Youngkin in office and House Republicans now in the majority, the legislation could have the votes to become law in Virginia.
Youngkin has repeated that he’s pro-life but that he supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest and where the mother’s life is in danger. The bill from Freitas does not mention exceptions for rape or incest.
While Democrats hold a 21-19 majority in the Virginia Senate, state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) joined Republicans in 2020 to vote against a bill that removed rules requiring women to wait 24 hours and to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion.
The bill was approved in the chamber with a tie-breaking vote from former Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, who will break ties in the chamber for the next four years, signaled support for tighter abortion laws like one in Texas during her campaign.
Morrissey has described himself as “unapologetically pro-life” and previously said he would back a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks, as long as it has exceptions for rape and incest. Morrissey was not available for an interview when 8News reached out to his office Friday.
Freitas’ bill would require doctors and nurse practitioners who perform abortions after 20 weeks to give “the unborn child the best opportunity to survive.” If passed and signed by Youngkin, people who perform abortions in violation of the proposed law would face a class 6 felony.
In Virginia, those found guilty of a class 6 felony could serve a five-year prison sentence and have to pay a $2,500 fine. Doctors and nurse practitioners who perform an abortion after the 20-week mark without the mother being in danger of death or irreversible damage could face a civil lawsuit.
Multiple attempts to reach Del. Freitas were unsuccessful Friday.
Protecting abortion rights was one of the top priorities for Virginia Democrats and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s ahead of the Nov. 2, elections. Citing the Texas law, McAuliffe repeated his concerns that Youngkin and GOP state lawmakers would seek to make changes to the commonwealth’s abortion laws if they won the statewide and House elections.
The Texas abortion law prohibits abortions if cardiac activity is detectable, which starts at around six weeks and is before many women know they’re pregnant. It also allows ordinary citizens to enforce it by filing civil suits against abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” a procedure.
Currently, Virginia allows abortions during the second trimester and only after the second trimester in circumstances when three doctors conclude “the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”
On the campaign trail, McAuliffe claimed Youngkin wanted “to turn Virginia into Texas,” pointing to remarks Youngkin made on abortion in a secretly recorded video released in July.
In the video, Youngkin is pressed by a liberal activist posing as an anti-abortion supporter on whether he would back defunding Planned Parenthood and a so-called fetal heartbeat bill.
After Youngkin says he’s “unabashedly” pro-life, another person asks him about defunding Planned Parenthood again and taking “it to the abortionists.” Youngkin answers that pushing the issue won’t get him independent votes he needs to win, but he believes Republicans can go “on offense” if the Virginia House flips red.
“I’m going to be really honest with you. The short answer is, in this campaign, I can’t. When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House we can start going on offense. But as a campaign topic, sadly, that, in fact, won’t win my independent votes that I have to get,” Youngkin said in the video clip. “So you’ll never hear me support Planned Parenthood. What you’ll hear me talk about is actually taking back the radical abortion policies that Virginians don’t want.”