A Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion, is expected by the end of June or early July. And the reverberations of that decision will be felt in central Virginia.
The Supreme Court heard arguments for a Mississippi law that challenges Roe v. Wade in December, and a draft opinion was leaked to Politico in May. If Roe v. Wade is overturned the way the draft outlines, the access or restrictions on the procedure will be left to state governments. Virginia law currently allows for abortions under any circumstances until the end of the second trimester, or within the first 26 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion in the third trimester is legal only if it is necessary to save the woman’s life or if continuing the pregnancy would “irremediably impair” her physical or mental health.
Virginia abortion providers are bracing for increased demand from out-of-state patients, if the Supreme Court issues an opinion like the draft that was released.
Here’s more about what the draft opinion means, and the politics that surround it, from Charlottesville Tomorrow reporter Charlotte Rene Woods appearance on WTJU’s podcast Bold Dominion.
Locally, whatever your view on abortion, there are many ways to get involved in the legislation, cultural and health care debates about abortion rights.
Here’s where our elected representatives stand on abortion.
Though abortion is not a purely partisan issue, it often falls along partisan lines.
In Virginia, Republicans control the House of Delegates and Gov. Glenn Youngkin opposes abortion in most cases. Meanwhile, Democrats control the Senate by one seat and are poised to block anything restricting abortion that the House might pass. Both chambers will be up for election in 2023.
At the federal level, Democrats hold the majority in the House of Representatives while Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. The House is up for election this year, while the Senate is not.
One way to engage with the laws and policies at the federal and state level is by voting for candidates who represent your views. You can also contact your representatives to let them know where you stand, donate to or volunteer with their campaigns.
U.S. Rep. Bob Good, District 5, Virginia: Good is a Republican who takes a strong stance against abortion at any stage.
“Protecting those who cannot protect themselves is one of the most important roles of government, and that includes precious innocent life in the womb,” his website reads. “I am unashamedly 100% pro-life from the moment of conception, without exception, and will always strongly support legislation that protects all life in the womb.”
In a statement sent to Charlottesville Tomorrow following the news of the Supreme Court draft opinion leak, he said that he hoped that Roe v. Wade would be overturned. He is also a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act, which was introduced in Congress last February and referred to a subcommittee in April of this year. A similar bill was also introduced in the Senate.
Josh Throneburg, U.S. congressional candidate for District 5, Virginia: A Democrat, Throneburg supports pregnant people’s right to choose but also social support for raising children.
“I do think, as the Democratic Party, we want to be the party of choice in the fullest version of what that means,” he said. “And I think sometimes we have really spent all of our time and energy focusing on a woman’s choice to end a pregnancy and to access an abortion. But I think we also want to be the party that does everything we can for women who want to choose to carry to term.”
Throneburg wants to expand Medicaid to cover pregnant people for the duration of their pregnancies and the first year after childbirth. He also wants to enhance child care access and support adoption services. He said that he would support federal efforts to protect the principles of Roe v. Wade.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia: As of last week, Kaine was “in talks” about a bill about abortion with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.
According to Kaine’s press secretary, Janine Kritschgau, they are working “to see if they can come to an agreement on a bill to codify Roe v. Wade that could gain a majority vote in the Senate.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia: Mark Warner, a Democrat, said that he plans to support measures to protect abortion access. He said that he was disappointed that the Senate failed to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act last month — legislation that would have codified Roe v. Wade into law.
“Truthfully, this is a stark reminder of why elections matter. Americans must be willing to participate in democracy at every level of government to help elect leaders who will stand up against efforts to roll back established rights,” he said. “Like so many of my colleagues, I remain committed to protecting women’s rights and will continue to do anything I can to ensure women can access the care they need.”
State Sen. Joe Morrissey, Petersburg: As a Democrat who cites his Catholic faith as a reason to oppose abortions, he has been seen as Virginia’s potential swing vote if the General Assembly pursues abortion-related legislation next year.
He explained in an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow that his stance is nuanced. He sees room to protect abortion access — with a cut off date.
“I think it’s an intimate decision that needs to be made between a woman and her doctor,” Morrissey said.
He supports abortions up until “the fetus can feel pain,” which he estimates is around 20 weeks of pregnancy. For abortions after the 20 week mark, he said that “there has to be exceptions” and noted instances of rape or incest, or when the pregnancy endangers a person’s health.
Morrissey is critical of states that have had proposals to criminalize people seeking abortions.
“I do not think that women should be jailed for having an abortion,” he said. “I generally have a record for defending all people’s rights, and women’s rights and others — and I’ll continue to do that,” he said.
State Del. Sally Hudson, Charlottesville: Hudson said that Democratic control of the General Assembly is crucial if her constituents want to protect abortion access.
“Our abortion rights are only secure as long Democrats can hold majorities in Richmond,” Hudson said. “That means everyone who cares about abortion rights needs to know that abortion is on the ballot in every state election from here on out.”
She also called Virginia a “safe haven” for the procedure — 22 states already have language on the books that would ban or restrict access if Roe. v Wade is overturned. Many of those states are in the South, making Virginia one of the closest states to legally seek care.
Hudson also noted an access issue that already exists when rural residents need to travel far distances to find an abortion provider covered by their insurance.
“Virginia’s provider shortage will only get more severe when the Supreme Court overturns Roe because more patients from out of state will come here to get the care they need,” she said. “That means anyone who’s invested in ensuring Virginians can still get abortion care has to be working to expand provider options.”
State Sen. Creigh Deeds, Bath: Deeds, a Democrat, suggests a couple of options that Virginia could explore if it hopes to more strongly remain a state where abortion is legal.
He said that Virginia could embed the principles of Roe v. Wade into the state’s code. In order for that to happen, a bill would need to pass both the House and Senate before being signed into law by the governor.
“That is the course I hope we take,” Deeds said. “Others have spoken of amending the state constitution to protect the right to choose. I am certainly open to that approach.
If legislators want to put abortion protections into the state’s constitution, they would need to pass a bill in the House of Delegates and the Senate two years in a row, with an House election between the sessions. Then final approval would come from voters as a question on the ballot.
Other state legislators: If you want to connect with other state representatives, and find out where they stand, here is a directory of phone numbers and email addresses for you to contact them.
Here are some organizations in Virginia that are either working to support abortions or to restrict them.
REPRO Rising: Formerly the Virginia chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, this organization has relaunched under a new banner, an acronym for reproductive equity, protections, rights and opportunity. The organization plans to expand its transportation services for people seeking abortions and continue its political advocacy work.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia: The state chapter of the national organization provides health services like birth control, pregnancy-related care, general health care, and transgender hormone therapy, as well as abortions.
Whole Women’s Health of Charlottesville: This is a local clinic and abortion provider that is part of a national organization. The organization also provides counseling, pap smears, STD testing and birth control. It can also mail abortion pills to clients.
The Family Foundation: This organization is anti-abortion and engages in political advocacy against the procedure. The “faith-based organization” also opposes same-sex marriage and encourages conservative voters to engage in the democratic process.
Blue Ridge Abortion Fund: The regional fund is part of a national network of abortion funds that provides assistance to people seeking abortions — from money to help cover the procedure to transportation costs. Last montht the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund was already recieving calls for assistance from people out-of-state. The fund provides financial assistance on a first come, first serve basis. They estimate that abortion providers and assisting funds in Virginia will face a continued uptick.