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Where abortion laws are headed in Virginia

People gathered in front of building with columns
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
People demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday in Washington, as the court heard arguments in a case from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a Mississippi abortion case that could end or significantly roll back abortion rights in the country. The court’s conservative majority signaled it will uphold the Mississippi restrictions, opening the door for other states to stamp out abortion access. Mississippi’s Attorney General asked the court to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion up to about 23 weeks.

What this could mean for Virginia is still uncertain. But Han Jones, political director at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia calls the case a “real threat.” 

“In Virginia, we’re facing an incoming anti-reproductive-rights governor in Glenn Youngkin, an anti-reproductive-rights House of Delegates and we have a reproductive rights tie in the state Senate with the tie-breaking vote now belonging to an anti-abortion lieutenant governor.”

Republicans wrested control of the Virginia House of Delegates, the governor’s office and the Office of the Attorney General in this November’s election, but so far they’ve revealed no agenda to unravel the work Democrats have done to make it easier to access an abortion in the state.

After Democrats took control of the General Assembly in 2020, they repealed abortion restrictions passed by Republicans, ending requirements that women receive ultrasounds and wait 24 hours before they can have an abortion, for example.

Although Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin says he’s anti-abortion, he’s indicated publicly that the issue is not a top priority for him. However, he was recorded at a June fundraising event saying he couldn't reveal his true position on abortion rights until after he was elected so he could secure more moderate votes.

”When I’m governor and have a majority in the House, we can start going on the offense,” he was recorded saying.

Youngkin has also said he would not have signed the Texas abortion law, calling it “unworkable and confusing.” The law permits abortion after six weeks only when a woman is facing a life-threatening or disabling medical emergency. The state circumvented constitutional concerns by delegating enforcement to private citizens, who can file civil lawsuits against anyone who helps a pregnant person obtain an abortion.

During a news conference last month, House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert indicated that his caucus would focus on other issues this session. 

Virginia’s incoming attorney general, Jason Miyares voted in step with his Republican colleagues on abortion issues as a member of the House of Delegates.  He voted against a bill signed into law last year that allows health insurance plans sold on Virginia’s health exhange to cover abortion services. 

Miyares did not respond to an interview request from VPM about the issue. 

Anti-abortion group The Family Foundation of Virginia is optimistic about the court’s ruling.

“Successful elections and oral arguments are a first step that must be followed by policy obectives supported by the majoirty of Virginians, including ending the taxpayer funding of the abortion industry and late term abortion,” said President Victoria Cobb. “Virginia has a long way to go to fully secure life as the human right that it is.

Abortions are not funded by tax dollars in Virginia, and they are not legal after the second trimester unless the life or permanent health of the pregnant person are at risk.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mississipi abortion case is not expected until next summer.