Republicans in the Virginia state legislature have submitted a bill restricting access to abortion, even after a special election earlier this week indicated that the measure has little chance of passing.
The bill was submitted by Rep. Kathy Byron, a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and would ban all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy — a time frame that abortion rights activists say is dangerously restrictive. Under the bill, physicians or clinicians who perform abortions after 15 weeks would be punished with fines up to $100,000 or with up to 10 years of imprisonment.
The bill makes exceptions for rape, incest, or to protect a pregnant person’s life.
Last month, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who previously claimed to be a moderate on the issue of abortion, vowed to back more restrictions on the procedure, stating that he would “happily and gleefully” sign any anti-abortion measures.
Currently, abortion in Virginia is legal up to the third trimester, or around 26 weeks of pregnancy. Restrictions on abortion were loosened in 2020, when Democrats controlled the state legislature and the governor’s office.
Abortion rights activists have noted that 15-week abortion bans are especially dangerous because it is typically not known until later in the second trimester if the fetus has life-threatening conditions or if the pregnancy could otherwise harm the health of the pregnant person.
Although the bill has been endorsed by Youngkin, it’s unlikely that it will be passed into law, at least for the time being. In order to become law, the bill, which was submitted in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, will also have to pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate.
Up until this week, it was considered somewhat possible that the bill would pass — at least one Democrat in the Senate had expressed having an “open mind” to the idea of banning abortions past 15 weeks — but a special Senate election held on Tuesday expanded the Democrats’ majority, making it far less likely that the bill will become law.
Democrat Aaron Rouse, who has said he will “not compromise” on protecting abortion rights, narrowly won his race against Republican Kevin Adams this week, flipping a seat that was previously held by a Republican. Rouse’s win means that Democrats will have a 22-18 majority in the Senate.
Because of Rouse’s win, at least two Democrats would have to side with Republicans in order for the state’s Republican lieutenant governor to cast the tie-breaking vote — a scenario that is extremely unlikely.
Responding to Youngkin’s State of the Commonwealth speech this week, in which the governor continued to advocate for anti-abortion policies, Rouse said on Twitter that his election win would help prevent such legislation from becoming law.
“[Youngkin] is standing behind his agenda to take VA back half a century,” Rouse noted. “Not on my watch!”