Governor Youngkin will seek a 15-week abortion law in Virginia

Placeholder while article actions load

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) said he will seek to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, moving quickly after the US Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that struck down the constitutional right to abortion.

Youngkin has asked four Virginia lawmakers, all anti-abortion Republicans, to craft legislation, saying the 20-week limit may need to be set to attract more consensus in a divided Capitol. She said that she supports exceptions for rape, incest and cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

The moves contrasted with cautious reactions in DC and Maryland, where Democratic leaders criticized the ruling and pledged to safeguard abortion access rights. But District Attorney Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said in an interview that the decision posed a “unique risk” to the federally controlled city, warning that a Republican takeover of Congress next year could spark new restrictions.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) said by email that his state passed laws 30 years ago to protect access to abortion. “I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of Maryland, and that is what I have always done and will continue to do as governor,” Hogan said, as calls mounted for the legislature to enshrine the protections in the state constitution.

In Virginia, Youngkin welcomed the high court’s ruling as a “proper” return of power to the states.

“Virginians want fewer abortions instead of more abortions,” Youngkin said Friday morning during a meeting with reporters, editors and editorialists at The Washington Post moments after the court’s decision was announced. “I am not someone who is going to step in and try to separate us… There is a place where we can come together.”

But Youngkin’s ruling and policy announcement, his most explicit policy statement to date on an issue he tried to sidestep during last year’s campaign, only seemed to aggravate the partisan divide.

“We hope that our fellow Democrats will reconsider their extremism on the issue of life and join us in restoring practical, sensible and reasonable policies that ensure the health and safety of mothers and protect the lives of our most vulnerable Virginians,” he said. the Senate Republican. caucus said in a written statement.

A ban after 15 weeks is “out of step with what most Virginians want,” state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) said Friday at an abortion rights rally in Richmond. “Let’s say no. We’re going to tell the party that professes to care about parental rights in the first place will not be involved in the decision to become a parent.”

“No matter what the law in Virginia says, I will not prosecute a woman for having an abortion, or for being suspected of inducing one,” Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano (D). tweeted.

On June 24, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving abortion decisions in the hands of the states. Here’s what you need to know and what’s next. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

The events drew condemnation from Democrats. “This is the beginning of this governor’s attack on freedom,” House Minority Leader Don L. Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth) said via text message.

Youngkin said he realizes there is a spectrum of beliefs in Virginia. She said she would like to see abortion banned at the time the fetus feels pain, saying she believes it is 15 weeks, similar to recent laws passed in Florida and Mississippi. Others have set the pain threshold at 20 weeks, she added, suggesting there could be a point of compromise between the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The crowd at the Supreme Court erupts with outrage and joy as Roe v. Wade

Some conservatives said they would like to see Youngkin push a harder line. Don Blake, president of the Virginia Christian Alliance, called the 15-week ban “a good start” but said going beyond it was impossible. But Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said Youngkin’s approach makes sense given state politics.

“I don’t think it goes far enough,” Rep. Wren Williams (R-Patrick), one of the most conservative members of the legislature, said of Youngkin’s proposal. “I would like to see a total ban in the Commonwealth… But if you can get that bill passed, I will fully support it. We have to keep pushing incrementally.”

US Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who opposes abortion without exception, said such a modest proposal “didn’t make sense.” “In Virginia, let’s not expect Democrats to accept ANY restrictions on abortion,” he said. wrote on Twitter. “It doesn’t make sense to work so modestly for legislation ‘capable of suffering’. Life begins at conception.

Abortion is currently legal in Virginia during the first and second trimesters of a pregnancy, up to about 26 weeks, a period of time that has existed during years of Republican and Democratic control of the General Assembly.

The procedure is allowed in the third trimester only if the life or health of the pregnant person is in serious risk, as certified by three doctors. Parental consent is required for minors seeking to terminate a pregnancy. Public funding of abortions is allowed for low-income pregnant women only in cases of rape or incest, if the life or health of the pregnant woman is in danger, or if the fetus has physical or mental deficiencies that “disable” it.

Youngkin has asked two Republican state senators and two Republican delegates to work on new legislation. They are Senator Siobhan S. Dunnavant (Henrico), an obstetrician; Senator Stephen D. Newman (Bedford); Del. Kathy J. Byron (Lynchburg) and Del. Margaret B. Ransone (Westmoreland).

When it was suggested that Youngkin’s effort might disappoint some conservatives who might want more restrictions, he said he was being realistic about the political moment. Republicans control the House of Delegates and Democrats control the Senate, and any legislation that comes before the General Assembly when it meets in January would have to pass both houses.

“We have a process in Virginia to resolve,” Youngkin said. “I’m a pro-life governor, I’m also very, very aware of Virginia. … A governor cannot do it alone. And he’s going to require… work across the hall. So we have to work for the next few months to find a place where we can land.”

The governor’s security detail cut short its scheduled 45-minute session with The Post’s editorial board once news of the high court’s decision broke, pulling Youngkin out midway. He said he had work to do to help maintain order and safety in Virginia as protests began to form over the court’s ruling.

“We are going to protect the rights of people to express their dissatisfaction or support,” Youngkin said. “So if people want to gather and protest or demonstrate, we will protect that right today. And we will also protect the property. We are going to protect security… We are going to have zero tolerance for violations.”

By mid-afternoon, there was little sign that the protests outside the Supreme Court building in the District had spread across the region or caused disorder.

In DC and Maryland, officials touted policies that guarantee safe access to abortion and vowed to resist any efforts to undermine them.

But because DC is not a state and subject to federal oversight, officials have warned for months that a November Republican takeover of Congress could lead to efforts to restrict or ban abortion in the city.

“Women and girls now and in the future will have fewer rights than our mothers,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who has a young daughter, said at a news conference at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington on Friday. the afternoon. “We are concerned because we know that we are vulnerable as a jurisdiction due to our lack of statehood.”

Norton said that congressional action codifying Roe throughout the country would be “the least the District needs.” In the absence of such legislation, he predicted that Republicans would move to ban abortion in DC.

The DC Council, which uniformly supports abortion rights, is scheduled to hold a hearing on July 14 to consider several bills that would further strengthen DC’s abortion laws, including a council member’s bill Brianne K. Nadeau Council (D-Ward 1) that would create a “human rights sanctuary” that protects the rights to abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, unions, and consensual sexual relations. It would restrict DC from cooperating with out-of-state investigations of people coming to the District from other states for abortions.

DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) said his office “will do everything in our power to fiercely defend and strengthen abortion rights in the District so everyone can create their family how and when they choose.” .

“We will defend the rights of District residents and those across the country who come here to access care,” he said. “And we will defend abortion providers who offer the care necessary to support the health, safety and dignity of their patients.”

In Maryland, Democrats leading the legislature have vowed to further strengthen abortion laws, which have been enshrined in state law for decades and allow the procedure until feasible without restrictions. Afterwards, it is allowed by the health of the mother.

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) said she would “use the full authority of my office” to include abortion rights in the state constitution.

“It’s a dark day for our country,” Jones said. “We cannot and will not give up. Now is the time to mobilize for the country we all deserve.”

The issue immediately heated up the race to succeed Hogan as governor. Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick), who is running for the Republican nomination and is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, hailed the ruling as a “historic” day, called for stopping “genocide” and vowed to work. to “make sure we in Maryland stop taxpayer-funded abortions” in a video posted on Facebook.

His main GOP opponent, former Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz, who has been endorsed by Hogan, tweeted that the ruling “doesn’t change anything about abortion in Maryland. As I have said repeatedly, while I am personally pro-life, the issue is a settled law in Maryland…Despite fear-mongering by others, as Governor, I will do nothing to change Maryland’s current law.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former US Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., who was endorsed by Pro-Choice Maryland, exhorted to leadership to hold a special session and “begin the process of enshrining the right to abortion in our state constitution RIGHT NOW.”

Erin Cox, Karina Elwood, Meagan Flynn, Jenna Portnoy, and Julie Zauzmer Weil contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment