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Virginia lawmakers react to report suggesting Supreme Court will overturn abortion rights

Published: May. 2, 2022 at 10:31 PM EDT|Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 5:52 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After multiple reports that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) may overturn abortion rights, Virginia lawmakers are weighing in on the possible decision.

Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s right to an abortion, was passed in 1973.

A decision to overrule Roe would have sweeping ramifications, leading to abortion bans in roughly half the states, sparking new efforts in Democratic-leaning states to protect access to abortion, and potentially reshaping the contours of this year’s hotly contested midterm elections.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into what he called the “egregious breach of trust” in leaking the draft document, which was dated February. Opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process, and a final ruling has not been expected until the end of the court’s term in late June or early July.

Virginia’s elected officials reacted to the news overnight, with Governor Glenn Youngkin voicing strong words against the leak.

“Just an unbelievable breach of confidence and it was done in order to create chaos and put pressure on elected officials,” Youngkin said.

Youngkin said he will not speculate about what this impending ruling could mean for Virginia. However, as a pro-life Governor, partaking in the March for Life last week, he believes abortion should be regulated by the state.

“We want fewer abortions in Virginia, not more,” Youngkin said. “We, in fact, don’t believe you should be able to get an abortion all the way up and through and including birth... That state decision is one we’re going to have to work with our state legislature on what we do. As I’ve said, I think there’s common ground on this, but we’re not going to be able to decide what we can really do until we see this decision go final.”

“Your access to healthcare shouldn’t matter what zip code or state you live in,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan (D – Richmond). “Abortion is healthcare, and decisions about healthcare should be between patients and their providers.”

In 2020, McClellan’s Reproductive Health Protection Act was passed into law. It removed any medically unnecessary barriers to abortion.

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data shows more than 15,000 abortions were performed on Virginians in 2020. That’s down from more than 17,000 in 2015. This data from VDH does not track the number of abortions completed for out-of-state women who travel to Virginia.

McClellan said overturning Roe v. Wade would not impact Virginia’s abortion laws, at least not right away.

“Not without legislation and I think that makes the state elections that much more critically important on this issue,” she said.

“We have a 50/50 Senate on the issue of life,” said Victoria Cobb with The Family Foundation. “It’s just simply because Democrats control it, they reroute abortion bills to a committee that double stack in pro-choice votes.”

While the agenda for the next session is still in the air, the battle over abortion is far from over.

“Abortion is legal. It is more accessible than it has been before and we’re going to keep it that way,” McClellan said. “We need to make sure Virginia stays a safe haven for abortion.”

Meanwhile, other state lawmakers and groups released the following statements about the matter:

Governor Glenn Youngkin

“I am in utter disbelief that the sacred confidentiality of the Supreme Court would be violated in this manner. Sadly, this leak was done in order to cause chaos and to put pressure on justices and elected officials. It’s premature to speculate on what the Supreme Court’s decision will be; however, we learned from listening to Virginians over the last year that we have much common ground on this issue. I am pro-life, and I have been very clear about that since the day I launched my campaign. While we wait for the final June decision, we will be focused on lowering taxes for Virginians, funding education and law enforcement because we need to get a budget passed.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia Chair

“This report showing the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade is beyond concerning and will set women’s rights back decades. Over 49 years ago, Roe v. Wade established a woman’s constitutional right to make decisions about her own health and body, and now after countless Republican attacks, the Supreme Court will overturn the landmark ruling and allow states to criminalize abortion.

“Virginia Democrats are deeply committed to protecting Virginians’ right to an abortion – and ensuring that the Commonwealth will not be pushed back to the restrictions of the 1950s and 60s when it comes to women’s equality. We will fight every single effort put forward by Governor Youngkin and Republican leadership to criminalize abortion and will ensure that Virginians have access to the health care and reproductive health care they need. And when we retake the majority here in Virginia, we will enshrine the protections of Roe v. Wade into our constitution.”

41st House District Representative Eileen Filler-Corn

Attorney General Jason Miyares (spokeswoman)

“This leak was an unprecedented breach of trust intended to undermine the Supreme Court. At this time, the draft opinion is just that - a draft. The Attorney General will respect whatever decision the Court makes.”

Virginia House Democratic Caucus

“Let’s be clear – should this draft opinion become final, people will die. Those people will be predominantly women of color and low-income women, women who cannot afford to skirt the law by traveling to another state. Ending the right to legal abortion doesn’t stop abortions from happening, it just makes them less safe by returning them to the back alleys of our past. As more and more nations around the world codify the legal right to abortion, this country is poised to take a step backward, to remove a person’s right to bodily autonomy. With nearly 50 years of precedent being wiped away in one opinion, I hesitate to think which will be next to fall.

Never has it been more important for states to step up and protect the rights that the federal government fails to uphold. Be assured that we will do everything in its power to stop any attempt by Governor Youngkin or Republican legislators to undermine reproductive rights in Virginia. We have stood up to transvaginal ultrasounds, we have stood up to TRAP laws, and we have fought back attempts to treat women as second-class citizens; Virginia will not backslide, not on our watch.”

Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance:

“This leaked opinion is horrifying and unprecedented. It confirms our worst fears: that the Court is prepared to end the constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade. We’re angry and ready to take action. We have been preparing for this, and we’re ready for this fight. Abortion is still legal and will remain legal in Virginia when this decision becomes final. We are prepared to continue to fight across the country—this will not stop us.

It is essential that pregnant people have access to medically accurate information and compassionate health care throughout their pregnancy, without political interference. Full stop. Politicians and Supreme Court Justices are throwing up barriers to abortion access not because it is necessary, but because they want to control people’s bodies. They do not care about the harm they will inflict on families in Virginia, especially rural, low-income, young, queer, trans, and people of color who already have a hard time accessing the health care they need.

Our fight is not over. We will continue to do the work to ensure that all people in our community and across America have affordable access to abortion when they need it.”

The Family Foundation

“We are cautiously optimistic. If this is in fact the final vote of the justices, it is an incredible ruling. Roe v. Wade had no Constitutional basis and was wrongly decided, and this is our chance to undo bad precedent that has permitted the destruction of life for decades.

“Overturning Roe, simply sends the issue of abortion to the states. Such a decision would not ban abortion across the country. A reversal of Roe would simply mean that the people, through their elected officials in each state, will determine laws surrounding abortion.”

Copyright 2022 WWBT. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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