How Virginia laws affect women: Abortion & reproductive rights
By Keya Vakil
June 19, 2019

Check out the rest of our series on how Virginia laws affect women here.

Nearly one-in-four women in the United States have an abortion by age 45 and 72% of Virginians support legal access to abortion, yet women’s reproductive rights are on the brink of being seriously curtailed in the state.

While Virginia did not go the way of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi in enacting draconian abortion bans in 2019, it’s not for lack of Republican desire. Outgoing Del. Bob Thomas (R-Stafford) said he wanted to completely ban abortion, but knows it’s not possible with a Democratic Governor.

Indeed, Ralph Northam’s presence in the governor’s mansion made it difficult to end access to abortion, but Republicans still tried.

Though they may not be able to ban abortion yet, Republicans did succeed in blocking several bills that would have protected women’s reproductive rights in Virginia.

They blocked the REPEAL Act, sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax), which would have repealed Virginia’s burdensome TRAP laws and removed stringent requirements currently placed upon Virginians seeking abortion care. The TRAP laws have left 92% of Virginia cities or counties without an abortion provider and are also the subject of an ongoing lawsuit.

Republicans also blocked the Reproductive Freedom Act from state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Herndon) and Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria). The bill would have codified into law every individual’s right to bodily autonomy and reproductive choice, and prevented the state from interfering in such matters.

The GOP also defeated a bill that would have enshrined state-level protections for the ACA’s no co-pay contraceptive coverage mandate. The law would have protected individuals from the Trump administration’s new religious exemption rules, which allow almost any business or organization to deny contraceptive coverage to employees based on religious grounds.

Finally, Republicans defeated the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which would have expanded the ACA’s no-copay insurance coverage to include all reproductive health services, including family planning, abortion, and postpartum care for all Virginians.

With all 140 seats in the General Assembly on the ballot in November, both parties are likely to focus heavily on whether abortion should be legal and accessible.

Abortion rights have already been chipped away over the last decade, so much so that 78% of Virginia women now live in counties without an abortion clinic.

But again, 72% of Virginians believe abortion should be legal; Virginia’s laws just don’t represent that quiet majority yet.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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