The debate around the issues of abortion access and reproductive rights in the commonwealth is likely closed (for now) as the current legislative session is scheduled to end on March 12.
On Fri. March 4, Senate Democrats defeated the final bill related to reproductive rights in the commonwealth. House Bill 304 (HB), sponsored by Republican Nick Freitas, would have required all health care providers who are licensed by the Board of Medicine to provide medical care for infants who were born alive as a result of an abortion gone wrong.
Under Freitas’s bill, any health care provider who failed to comply with its requirements would be guilty of a Class 4 felony, and subject to potential disciplinary action by the Board of Medicine. It also would’ve required every hospital licensed by the Virginia Department of Health to establish some sort of protocol for care and treatment of infants born alive.
Del. Freitas also introduced HB 1274, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions in Virginia after 20 weeks. The bill was referred to the House Committee for Courts of Justice, where it ultimately failed.
HB 304 was passed by indefinitely by 11 Democrats on the Rules Committee. Only one Democrat voted with the panel’s three Republicans: Sen. Chap Petersen.
The future of abortion access and reproductive rights in Virginia is still uncertain. It will also continue to be a key issue in Virginia’s legislature, where Republicans hold a 52-48 edge over Democrats in the House of Delegates.
On a national level, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is set to rule on a case this summer featuring a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. It isn’t clear if the SCOTUS justices, comprised of three liberal justices and six conservative justices, would overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving the issue up to individual states. If the court upholds the Mississippi law, throwing out the viability standard, more states could potentially enact further restrictions.
After taking office, Attorney General Jason Miyares removed Virginia from a legal brief that said the Mississippi abortion law was unconstitutional. Virginia Solicitor General Andrew N. Ferguson wrote to the clerk of the SCOTUS to say that Virginia “is now of the view” that the landmark Roe v. Wade case was “wrongly decided.”
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