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Friday, Jan. 20, 2023

Virginia’s 2023 legislative session is underway and among the biggest issues lawmakers will address this year is abortion rights.

But before we get to that, I’d like to quickly note something important about this session: Neither political party holds power in Virginia this year. Democrats control the Senate and Republicans have a majority in the House of Delegates. So both sides are in a position to block any bills coming from the other. That likely means “no big ticket item” (like an abortion ban) will make it into law this session, Randolph-Macon College politics professor Richard Meagher told 8News in this story out of Richmond.

Still, the battle over abortion rights in this state is officially underway.

People stand in front of the United States Courthouse Federal Building holding signs reading "Support a woman's right to choose!" "Intersectional feminism" and "NOW."
Demonstrators rallied outside Charlottesville’s federal courthouse on May 3, 2022 in support of protecting Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court ended federal abortion rights when it overturned the landmark ruling in June 2022. Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

A Senate subcommittee voted down Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signature abortion ban legislation this morning, according to Cardinal News. The proposal sought to ban most abortions after 15 weeks. The Republican lawmakers who drafted the bill say that this is when a fetus is capable of feeling pain. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says fetuses are capable of feeling pain only after 24 weeks.

A similar bill will probably pass the Republican-controlled House this session, then — again — be vetoed by the Democrat-controlled Senate. Multiple state and national news outlets have written on this topic. Axios sums up the sides quickly in this article. For a more comprehensive dive into the issue, check out this story in Vox.

Ultimately, it looks likely that abortion laws will remain unchanged in Virginia — for now. 

What you need to know about local organizations and laws around abortion

Here in Charlottesville and Albemarle County that means local abortion providers will continue stretching themselves to provide abortions to people in this state, and those who come for care from surrounding states. Abortions are either illegal or severely restricted in four of the five states that border Virginia.

Several people stand in front of an intersection holding signs. At the center, a woman holds up a round sign that reads, “Keep Abortion Legal.”
Credit: Credits: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

From 2022: How Charlottesville-area organizations prepared for the end of Roe V. Wade

The issue will likely appear before the state’s legislature again next year, and by then it’s impossible to say how things will go. All 140 state seats are up for grabs in November. If Democrats gain control of both houses, things are unlikely to change. Abortion is already legal in Virginia and Youngkin, who will remain governor through 2026, says he will veto any additional abortion rights laws that make it through the House and Senate. But, if Republicans are able to take control of the legislature, Virginia will probably ban abortion.

We’ll be following this and other issues leading up to the November 2023 election in our upcoming Voter Guide. If you have questions about this or anything else we’ll see in that election, hit reply to this email and let us know!

Thanks for reading,

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.