RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia lawmakers didn’t take advantage of their first chance to vote on abortion legislation since federal protections were struck down earlier this summer.
The General Assembly reconvened for a one-day session on Wednesday, Sept. 7, to focus on selecting judges.
Some speculated that Gov. Glenn Youngkin would send down legislation attempting to restrict abortion but Republicans aren’t in any rush to address the issue before the 2023 regular session, which kicks off in January.
Still, dozens of abortion rights advocates gathered for a rally outside of the State Capitol. They urged lawmakers to protect access and keep politicians out of what they consider personal healthcare decisions.
Senator Jennifer McClellan was among those in the crowd.
“I’m sick and tired of fighting the same fight that my parents, my grandparents and my great grandparents fought,” McClellan said. “If I have to keep fighting, I’m going to do it, and I need your help.”
A series of speakers raised concerns that a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy would present barriers for women confronting severe birth defects and miscarriages.
That fear is top of mind for Meredith Hill, an advocate from Richmond who has had two miscarriages.
“Missed miscarriages are often not detected until ultrasounds that occur after the point of many abortion bans’ gestational limits. Not having access to the necessary means to manage these types of miscarriages that can happen to anyone will lead to more physical and emotional trauma, more hospitalizations, more work missed, more generational trauma, and in some cases potential death that could all otherwise be averted,” Hill told the crowd.
After Roe v. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court in June, Gov. Youngkin tapped a group of four Republicans to craft legislation that could win consensus in a politically divided government.
Senator Steve Newman is one of those lawmakers. He said the group has not met officially yet to begin drafting a bill but Youngkin gave them some guidance.
“While some of us, including myself, would support a broader ban on abortion, I think it’s important to understand that the governor has proposed a 15-week or a pain-capable bill and then talked a lot about wanting to get our arms around mothers and children,” Newman said. “I think there could be broad consensus on that.”
The GOP currently controls the House of Delegates. Democrats still have control in the Senate but one Democrat has sided with Republicans on abortion-related issues before.
Delegate Emily Brewer said she is “pro-life at the moment of conception.” When asked if she would support an abortion ban at conception if it’s introduced, she said she would have to see the legislation.
Brewer said lawmakers should have more conversations with voters before the 2023 session.
“Anything reducing the number of weeks is a step in the right direction from my perspective but that’s a conversation every single member of our chamber is going to have to have with their voters,” Brewer said.
Those comments come as Virginians are preparing to vote in some close Congressional races in which abortion has become a defining issue for Democratic campaigns.
Political Analyst Rich Meagher said Republicans in the General Assembly may not want to stir the pot before the midterms.
“It could be that the midterms are making the Republicans in Virginia cautious because they want to be good team players but they also might want to see if there is a big backlash against the abortion issue and their position before they pursue any more action,” Meagher said.