Virginia’s November Election Could Decide If a Texas Abortion Ban Happens Here

A security guard opens the door to the Whole Women's Health Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. A Texas law banning most abortions in the state took effect at midnight, but the Supreme Court has yet to act on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold. If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

By Meghan McCarthy

September 1, 2021

Control of the House of Delegates and the Governor’s Mansion are up for grabs, and the GOP candidate vowed to go “on offense” on abortion if they win.

What a difference an election can make in a Southern state.

In 2019, Virginia voters elected Democrats to lead the entire state legislature. Among the party’s many promises was to undo medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion.

They swiftly made good on those promises in 2020, eliminating a mandatory ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.

Things couldn’t be further from that in Texas, where the state’s Republican-led legislature and governor backed a law that took effect Wednesday, prohibiting abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, which is usually around six weeks after the start of a person’s last period. That is usually only two weeks after the very earliest point a woman can learn she is pregnant. (Many women do not know they’re pregnant at six weeks.)

It is the most restrictive abortion law in United States since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973. In fact, several states have tried to implement a similar abortion ban, but saw those laws overturned. The difference in Texas, however, is in the details: State lawmakers made it difficult to challenge in federal court because, as The New York Times pointed out, the law “deputizes private individuals to sue anyone who performs the procedure or ‘aids and abets’ it.” Previous iterations of this type of law have required public officials to enforce it.

Opponents had filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, but the court did not respond, meaning the law could go into effect.

While critics keep a close eye on what happens in Texas, reproductive rights advocates in Virginia are fighting to ensure the progress made here continues. In July, Republican governor candidate Glenn Youngkin was caught on camera saying he could not talk about restricting abortion access on the campaign trail because it would not be popular with the independent voters he needs to win, particularly in northern Virginia.

But Youngkin promised when he was governor, they would go “on offense” to restrict women’s health care.

“I’m going to be really honest with you. The short answer is in this campaign, I can’t. When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House we can start going on offense. But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get,” Youngkin said, according to The Washington Post.

A 2020 poll from Public Policy Polling found that 79% of Virginians believe abortion should be legal.

“Virginians should take Glenn at his word that he will use his power as governor to override the rights and will of the majority to enact his extreme anti-abortion agenda in the Commonwealth,” Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said in a statement.

In contrast, Democratic candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe supports women’s right to choose and access the health care they need. 

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, a Texas abortion provider that also has a location in Alexandria, said the Texas law was “an abortion ban, plain and simple.” Several lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court to overturn the legislation.

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