What Virginians Should Know About North Carolina’s New Abortion Ban

Richmond, Virginia USA - July 8, 2022: Scenes from a reproductive rights rally and march at Monroe Park, sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Virginia. Photo: Michael Scott Milner / Shutterstock

By Carolyn Fiddler

May 19, 2023

Earlier this week, GOP legislators in North Carolina overturned the governor’s veto of a ban on abortions after 12 weeks. Despite being a state away, this new abortion ban will impact folks living in the Old Dominion.

Late Tuesday night, North Carolina became the fourth state sharing a border with Virginia to ban abortion.

The GOP-controlled legislature in the Tar Heel State overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a ban on abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy – a move that makes Virginia the least-restrictive state in the South for abortion access. Abortion care in Virginia is available through 26 weeks, the end of the second trimester, and later under specific, limited circumstances.

North Carolina’s new law—which also imposes burdensome regulations on clinics and erects additional barriers to care abortion care during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy—will take effect on July 1. Reproductive rights activists in the commonwealth anticipate that Virginia will be impacted by a resulting “ripple effect.”

“All of these states banning abortion will cause more folks to travel out of state to Virginia to access care,” said Jamie Lockhart, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia’s executive director. “It kind of remains to be seen, but we are anticipating thousands of patients will likely seek care in Virginia as a result of these bans.

“That will not only impact folks who would travel to Virginia seeking care, but it would impact Virginians who would have longer wait times and won’t be able to access care as quickly as they’d like,” continued Lockhart. “North Carolina passing this monster abortion ban is just devastating for abortion access across the south.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin was asked about North Carolina’s new abortion ban this week, and he took the opportunity to remind Virginians that he also supports abortion bans

“I believe a place where Virginians could come together was around a 15-week [abortion ban] bill,” he told 13News Now.

During this year’s General Assembly session, Youngkin pushed such a 15-week abortion ban. The Democratic-majority state Senate blocked the measure, while the Republican-controlled House of Delegates refused to even schedule the proposal for a committee hearing.

Virginia House Minority Leader Don Scott, a Democrat from Portsmouth, accused his GOP counterparts of opportunistic cowardice, saying that Republicans were “scared to death to go on the record against women, against choice in an election year.”

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.”

Youngkin is not being coy about his goal to ban abortion in Virginia, and if Republicans hold the state House and win majority control of the state Senate, a ban would likely become law. Despite the GOP’s unwillingness to debate reproductive rights in the General Assembly session this year, 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.

As Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg noted, “North Carolina’s ban is a stark reminder of what’s on the line here in Virginia this November.”

  • 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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