RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia House Republicans rejected a proposal that would have given voters the final say on whether to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution.
The House of Delegates Courts of Justice subcommittee voted 5-3 along party lines Friday to kill the proposed constitutional amendment from state Sens. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Jennifer Boysko (D-Loudoun).
Sen. McClellan told the Republican-led panel, whose members voted the same when an identical proposal was defeated in late January, that abortion decisions “should be made by patients and their providers,” not lawmakers.
“As someone who almost died in childbirth, I would much rather put my trust in medical professionals who have been trained,” the senator said Friday.
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.”
Sen. McClellan repeated this language when asked by Republicans on the subcommittee about whether the proposal would set a limit on abortions tied to the gestation period or viability of a fetus, including one GOP state delegate who asked whether it would allow for abortions at the 40-week mark.
McClellan added that viability in one pregnancy is not the same for others and that an abortion at 40 weeks means “something has gone incredibly wrong.”
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.”
With the end of Roe, abortion access was expected to be a top issue during the 2023 General Assembly session.
As expected with the General Assembly divided, substantial changes to abortion access in Virginia did not move forward during this year’s legislative session.