RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia Senate panel with a Democratic majority rejected three different Republican proposals to restrict abortion, including a 15-week ban that Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) pushed for the day Roe fell.
The Senate Education and Health Committee swiftly killed bills put forward by three Republican state senators on Thursday morning, each with various restrictions. There was little suspense about the outcome after a subcommittee recommended that the measures be defeated.
The proposals shot down nearly along party lines included the Youngkin-backed bill to restrict abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger, an outright ban with exceptions and one from a practicing OB-GYN to narrow the window for an abortion.
“Just days after unveiling a constitutional amendment that endorses abortion at any point during the pregnancy, including when a baby feels pain all the way up until the moment of birth, Senate Democrats solidified their extreme position this morning,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement.
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.”
The three measures blocked by the committee Thursday had proposed various degrees of restrictions on abortions in Virginia.
State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell) introduced the bill with the most stringent limits, a proposal to ban abortions except to save the mother’s life or up to 20 weeks in cases of rape and incest, but only if a police report is filed.
State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), a practicing OB-GYN for more than 25 years, broke from her party when she sided with Democrats to vote against the other two more restrictive bills during last week’s subcommittee hearing and on Thursday.
Sen. Dunnavant’s bill would have limited abortions to “during the second trimester” and before viability — when a fetus can survive outside the womb — defined in the legislation as 24 weeks or more or “in the estimation of three doctors,” but at least 22 weeks.
The proposal would have banned abortions during the third trimester except to save the mother’s life and require all procedures to be performed in hospitals. It would maintain the exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when a mother’s life is in danger.
Women’s reproductive rights were expected to be a top issue for state lawmakers upon their return to Richmond for the 2023 session in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June striking down the constitutional right to an abortion.
That same day, Youngkin announced he had tapped four Republican state lawmakers to “chart the most successful path” to bring forward legislation this year, including a 15-week ban proposal.
Republican leaders in the General Assembly said before the session that they expected little movement on the effort.
“I would be very surprised if anything of substance comes out of this General Assembly on that issue,” Republican House Speaker Todd Gilbert (Shenandoah) said about abortion during a Jan. 9 virtual press gaggle.
Democrats in the House of Delegates, including Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), noted on the House floor earlier this week that the Republican-led chamber has yet to even refer its version of Youngkin’s 15-week proposal to a committee.
Virginia Democrats have made enshrining the right to have an abortion in the state constitution a priority, an unlikely scenario as Republicans control the House.
But with a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, Democrats appear poised to make good on their vow to be a “brick wall” to protect abortion rights.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.