Virginia Reacts to Roe v. Wade Ruling

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

By Amie Knowles

June 24, 2022

Abortion is still legal in Virginia, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling.

It’s a somber day in America. Despite 66% of Americans thinking the government shouldn’t intervene in reproductive rights, here we are.

The Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade — a 1973 landmark decision ruling in favor of a federal constitutional right to an abortion — shortly after convening for its opinion day on June 24. Speculation rose that the decision would arise prior to the weekend after the court announced two opinion days in a row: one on Thursday, and one on Friday. 

The change impacts 13 states in a major way. Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming each have trigger laws, which would take effect immediately in some states and in up to a month in others. 

Abortion is still legal in Virginia. The commonwealth doesn’t have any anti-abortion trigger laws.

Virginia Reacts

Virginia leaders and lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle quickly took to social media with their opinions following the decision. 

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin stated in part: “The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states. I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions. We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life.”

Youngkin expressed plans to seek a 15-or-20 week abortion law in Virginia, with legislation introduced when the General Assembly returns in January 2023. 

Democratic leaders vastly expressed displeasure with the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-VA) took to Twitter, where she wrote: “Your right to abortion should not depend on where you live. But today’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe [v. Wade] returns the fight back to the states. I’ve fought to make Virginia a safe haven for access to abortion in the South. Now, I will fight to keep it so.” 

Former Del. Joshua Cole (D-VA) also expressed his opinion on Twitter, writing: As a pro-choice pastor — I am entrusted to shepherd my community. As a pro-choice pastor — I took an oath to protect and I’l fight to do just that. As a pro-choice pastor — I know where I stand and I won’t back down.”

In an email, Congressional Rep. Donald McEachin (VA-04), a Democrat, said that the decision was a devastating and unacceptable attack on constitutionally protected freedoms, stating in part: “The Supreme Court, comprised largely of Trump-appointed justices, is undermining the legitimacy of its institution while ushering in a dangerous and unprecedented dynamic. This decision is one of the greatest rollbacks of rights in recent times and represents the first time our daughters will have less rights than their mothers. These restrictions will also disproportionately impact low-income Americans and people of color and cause severe socioeconomic impacts on the most vulnerable among us. Overturning Roe v. Wade endangers the health, freedoms, economic mobility, and overall well-being of millions of Americans across our nation and strips women of their right to make the most personal and intimate decisions about their own bodies.”

However, Republican Congressional Rep. Bob Good (VA-05) called on the Supreme Court to further restrict abortions, tweeting: “We should match the courage of SCOTUS and boldly work in the days and weeks ahead to protect all life from conception! I am calling on all Republicans to sign my discharge petition to bring the Life at Conception Act to the floor for a vote!”

Meanwhile, Congressional Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-02), a Democrat, took to Twitter, writing: “Today’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a blow to women’s rights and protection from government overreach. The government has no place in the health care decisions of women, and we must pass laws to codify reproductive freedom and protect the right to choose.”

Virginia Democrats Defend Rights

In Virginia, Democrats continued to fight for reproductive rights during the 2022 General Assembly. Despite the commonwealth being under a Republican governorship, Democrats defeated the bills aimed against abortion, as outlined in Dogwood’s coverage of the subject in March. 

The final bill in the House of Delegates during the first legislative session was House Bill 304 (HB), sponsored by Republican Del. Nick Freitas. It would have required all health care providers 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’ve been 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. 

Another bill Freitas introduced was HB 1274, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It didn’t pass, but would’ve banned abortions in Virginia after 20 weeks with the exception of a major medical complication to avoid death or serious injury to the mother. 

Some Republican leaders, on the other hand, took a different approach. On Jan. 21, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares sent a letter to the US Supreme Court to withdraw the commonwealth’s opposition to a Mississippi abortion law. Miyares further suggested the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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