Virginia’s Top Republican Just Reminded Everyone that Abortion is on the Ballot in November

FILE - Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks during a news conference about U.S.-Japan cooperation on economic issues, April 27, 2023, in Tokyo. Joined by Jewish faith and community leaders, Youngkin hosted an event Monday, May 8, to ceremonially sign a bill supporters say will help Virginia better track and combat growing instances of antisemitism. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

By Carolyn Fiddler

May 10, 2023

Gov. Glenn Youngkin reaffirmed this week his goal to curtail reproductive freedom in the commonwealth, reminding Virginians that their fundamental rights are at stake in this November’s elections.

Early this week, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin reaffirmed his opposition to reproductive rights.

When asked at an event where he stands on undermining Virginians’ right to obtain an abortion, Youngkin falsely claimed that voters propelled him to victory in the 2021 gubernatorial election because of his stance against reproductive freedom.

In fact, Youngkin assiduously avoided offering specifics on his opposition to abortion rights on the campaign trail; a video surfaced during the race of Youngkin saying that he had to limit his anti-abortion comments on the campaign trail so as to not alienate Virginia’s independent voters, and he went on to say that he would go “on offense” if he won. Polls on reproductive rights in Virginia have consistently indicated that most folks who live in the Old Dominion favor protecting those rights.

Youngkin further reaffirmed his support for eliminating the right to access abortion care after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Current Virginia law protects reproductive freedom through 26 weeks, and some exceptions, such as the health or life of the mother, extend beyond that cutoff.

“I think we can come together around a 15-week bill,” the governor said on Monday. “And that’s what I have been very clear about. I think we should continue to work on that.”

Youngkin’s 2021 victory dovetailed with Republicans winning a majority in the House of Delegates (Democrats maintain majority control of the state Senate), and in this year’s legislative session – the first since the US Supreme Court reversed the reproductive rights previously protected by Roe v. Wade – Youngkin supported bills that would enact his goal of a 15-week ban.

This year also happens to be an election year for Virginia’s legislature – all 100 House of Delegates seats and all 40 Senate seats are on the ballot in November – so it’s remarkable that the GOP-controlled House declined to hold a full vote on Youngkin’s or almost any other bill restricting reproductive rights during the legislative session. 

As veteran Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth noted at the time, “[Republican House Speaker Todd Gilbert] doesn’t want to put delegates who are in a competitive race in November in a situation where it could harm them,” he said.

As the highest-ranking Republican in elected office in the commonwealth, Youngkin is the de facto leader of the Virginia GOP, and neither the governor nor legislative candidates are shying away from making reproductive freedom a key issue at the ballot box – not only in November, but also in this spring’s intra-party nomination contests. 

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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