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Virginia candidates are campaigning on abortion ahead of November

A group of people walk down a brick sidewalk holding pro-abortion-rights signs
Scott Elmquist
VPM News File
People march through downtown Richmond on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, following the release of a draft Supreme Court opinion that eventually led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Both sides of the abortion access debate are taking their arguments directly to voters.

A year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, both sides of the abortion access debate are taking their arguments directly to voters.

People and organizations who want to protect access to abortion in Virginia are trying to maintain Democratic control of the Virginia Senate and win a majority to take back the House of Delegates.

With slim margins in the state Senate, each vote counts for abortion-rights advocates.

In Virginia’s 13th Senate District, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia took the unusual step of endorsing a candidate in the primaries. With the support of abortion-rights advocates and other groups, Former Del. Lashrecse Aird beat state Sen. Joe Morrissey with nearly 70% of the vote. (As VPM News reported, Morrissey conceded less than an hour after polls closed.)

Morrissey earned criticism from the state’s female, Democratic Senators and pro-choice groups for supporting legislation restricting abortion access.

Lashrecse Aird smiling at her supporters
Ryan M. Kelly
For VPM News
Lashrecse Aird greets supporters during a primary election night party at IBEW Local 666 on June 20 in Highland Springs, Virginia.

“We knew that abortion was going to be on the ballot on June 20,” said Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “Voters in that district, but we know similarly for voters across the Commonwealth, they want leaders who are going to stand up for reproductive rights.”

Those who are trying to protect access to abortion are trying to pass a constitutional amendment that would enshrine reproductive rights in Virginia.

That process requires the proposal pass through both General Assembly chambers in two different sessions, separated by an election — and then it goes to voter referendum. At the earliest, the issue could go to voters in 2026.

Lockhart doesn’t support any legislative restrictions on abortion and says the decision should be between a patient and their doctor.

“We know that every pregnancy is unique, and that pregnancy is complicated,” said Lockhart. “The idea that legislators can put forward an arbitrary cutoff for when people should have access to health care is not something that we support.”

Abortion rights advocates plan to spend the summer and fall educating voters about the importance of this November’s elections.

Protesters holding signs: "The Future Is Anti-Abortion"; "Richmond Is Pro-Life" and wearing shirts that say "I am the pro-life generation"
VPM News Focal Point

Anti-abortion supporters also see the upcoming elections as an opportunity to engage with voters to help Republicans hold their majority in the House of Delegates and gain control in the Senate.

Olivia Gans Turner, president of Virginia’s Society for Human Life, says her organization’s goal is to pass the “most protective” laws for unborn children, their mothers, older adults and people with disabilities.

“This is not a place where we’re going to see rapid change with regard to the abortion question,” said Gans Turner. “Currently, there’s a real roadblock in the Virginia Senate to achieving the goal of passing even moderate and reasonable protective legislation.”

The anti-abortion advocate supports Republican-proposed legislation like the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and the Woman’s Right to Know bill. Gans Turner would also like to see Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to limit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

In addition to legislative solutions, Gans Turner says Virginia has some of the nation’s most extensive networks supporting and encouraging pregnant mothers not to choose abortion.

“I’m hoping that part of the conversation that ensues at this point, will not just be about how we can prevent abortions from happening,” said Gans Turner. “How can we truly move the ball forward in Virginia?”

Back in Virginia’s 13th SD, Aird thanked supporters on election night and promised to be a strong voice in the legislature to protect abortion access.

VPM News Focal Point returns to VPM PBS later this year.