Here’s Where Abortion Legislation in Virginia Stands Following ‘Crossover Day’

Workers begin digging a tunnel to connect the new General Assembly building to the Capitol Wednesday March 2, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Isabel Soisson

February 10, 2023

The Virginia General Assembly session passed a crucial milestone this week, and with just two weeks left to pass new laws in the commonwealth, here’s an update on where proposed abortion legislation stands in the Old Dominion.

Despite the fact that most Virginians support reproductive rights, the legislative session to date has demonstrated that abortion continues to be a divisive topic in the Virginia General Assembly. This is especially true in a year when all 140 seats in the legislature are on the November ballot.

As The Washington Post notes, leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Democratic-majority Senate know that party-line votes are likely to fail in the opposite chamber. Further, no doubt mindful of the fact that this is an election year, House Speaker Todd Gilbert refused to allow some high-profile measures to go through the committee process–which prevented his members from going on the record with votes on these measures. This includes Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks. Democratic Del. Sally L. Hudson accused Republicans on the House floor of not wanting to move on this proposed abortion ban because the threat to reproductive freedom posed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer was a large part of Democrats performing well in last year’s midterm elections

Conversely, the Senate held votes on a large number of abortion-related measures, and it approved Senate Joint Resolution 255, introduced by Democratic Sen. Jennifer McClellan, which would establish the fundamental right to reproductive freedom by adding broad abortion rights language to the Virginia constitution. It would also protect against interference or discrimination in care. This resolution, however, stands little chance in the GOP-majority House of Delegates, as Republicans claim that the language would broaden the availability of abortions.

Many of the most extreme anti-reproductive rights bills have been defeated or effectively killed for the year. House Bill 1395, for example, would have established that life begins at conception, making abortion illegal in the commonwealth and potentially impacting the ability of women to use the birth control method of their choice. House Bill 1894 would have allowed pregnant drivers to count as two passengers for HOV/HOT lane purposes, and House Bill 1488 would have stripped away provisions that authorize the use of state funds to pay for qualifying abortions in cases of rape, incest, and totally incapacitating physical deformities or mental deficiencies. Senate Resolution 87 is another measure that would have established that life begins at conception, and House Bill 1795 would have unnecessarily mandated that doctors, in the incredibly rare case in which a fetus survives an abortion procedure, provide medical care for the fetus after it is born. 

As Del. Hudson noted later on in her floor speech on Tuesday, Republicans would “rather not be on the record on abortion” in an election year, hence why Gov. Youngkin’s proposal didn’t even come up for a vote. Instead, she said, they focused on passing a handful of “less ambitious” abortion bills so they could “go home to the campaign trail and say they tried to do something.” Perhaps the most notable of these is House Bill 2270, which seeks to expand the type of “informed written consent” a woman must provide before having an abortion, further pushing the narrative that women aren’t able to make their own choices about their bodies. The measure awaits consideration by the state Senate, which blocked a similar bill in 2022

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  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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