RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For the second straight year, the Republican-led House of Delegates won’t vote on proposals from GOP state delegates to ban abortion in Virginia.
Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville), chair of the House Courts of Justice Committee, won’t docket any bills to impose restrictions on the procedure, including one backed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.
“We don’t see a path for that bill to become law,” Del. Bell told 8News’ Jackie DeFusco on Wednesday about Youngkin’s proposal.
Bell’s decision isn’t a surprise as it comes nearly a year after he opted not to bring forward legislation from Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) that would have largely banned abortion after 20 weeks due to the divided government.
Virginia House Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) called out Republicans on the floor of the House of Delegates on Jan. 24, saying they were trying to “avoid” the conversation by not putting the Youngkin bill introduced by Del. Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), and one with more extreme restrictions, up for consideration.
Del. Scott said then that Republicans were “scared to death to go on the record against women, against choice in an election year.”
A spokesperson for Youngkin did not touch on Del. Bell’s decision, instead sharing the statement the governor made while marching with anti-abortion advocates in Richmond on Wednesday.
“I’m first of all incredibly disappointed in the Senate Democrats, I mean, Virginians, elected a pro-life governor. And the one thing I do know is Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions,” Youngkin said during the March for Life rally.
A spokesperson for Virginia House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) responded to a text seeking comment Thursday saying he would have to ask Del. Gilbert but has yet to share a statement.
Virginia allows abortions up until the second trimester of pregnancy — or about 26 weeks — and after the second trimester only 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.”
Del. Byron’s legislation, House Bill 2278, would have banned abortions after 15 weeks and made way for the exceptions Youngkin said he supported, including for rape, incest and when a doctor determines the mother’s life is in danger.
Just as they did last year, Senate Democrats have killed Republican efforts to impose abortion bans and have vowed to do the same with any similar measures that make it out of the Virginia House.
With the fall of Roe v. Wade last June, the fate of women’s reproductive rights was pushed to the states, setting up a highly anticipated legislative fight in Virginia for the 2023 General Assembly session.
But the expected duel fizzled out at the outset of the session after state Sen. Aaron Rouse (D-Virginia Beach) won his seat and secured a 22-18 Democratic majority in the Virginia Senate.
Rouse’s victory quelled any chance of state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond), a Democrat who opposes abortion, from backing a Republican abortion ban bill.
Despite this, Virginia House Republicans are moving forward with bills related to abortion and have used their majority to block Democrats in the 100-member chamber from codifying abortion rights in the state constitution.
One from Del. Freitas would require health care providers to give an infant born alive after an attempted abortion “the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health” to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.
Abortion providers, who could face a Class 4 felony and disciplinary action from the Board of Medicine, would also have to take “all reasonable steps” to transfer the infant born alive to a hospital, according to Fretias’ bill.
Update: This story has been updated with Gov. Youngkin’s remarks from Wednesday provided by his office.