RICHMOND, Va. — In downtown near the Virginia Capitol just 364 days ago, the streets were filled with protesters following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe vs. Wade and sent the decision on abortion access back to the states.
In the year since, the streets have cleared but echoes of the landmarks ruling remain throughout the country and Virginia.
Abortion through the second trimester remains legal in Virginia. The Commonwealth is the only southern state in the U.S. that does not have an early-term abortion ban. Several states rushed to pass them in the wake of the Dobbs ruling.
Advocates on either side of the debate know Virginia’s laws could change very soon based on upcoming elections.
In February, a large crowd gathered in Richmond for the annual “March for Life” event as well. Virginians who oppose abortion care feel emboldened with Gov. Glenn Youngkin in the Governor’s Mansion.
Youngkin supports a 15-week abortion ban, which is later than other states but would still limit second trimester procedures. The only thing blocking Youngkin’s abortion plan is that Democrat control the Virginia Senate by a narrow margin.
Control of Virginia’s legislature is on the ballot during November elections.
“Now states and now legislators have to actually show where they stand on this issue. They can’t hide behind that veil of Roe versus Wade,” said Todd Gathje with the Family Foundation of Virginia.
Gathje said their organization will train their political efforts on supporting candidates who protect the unborn.
“I think that what voters should try to find out is, you know, how far and how extreme is the pro-abortion side willing to push this issue,” Gathje said.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia Executive Director Jamie Lockhart
Jamie Lockhart, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said in other states healthcare for women has suffered post-Dobbs and voters have rejected anti-abortion measures multiple times.
“We know that it’s impacted access to care, access to abortion, but it’s also impacted access to miscarriage management. It’s been bad for maternal health care. It’s been bad for OB-GYN’s in states across the country,” Lockhart said.
Virginia does not have to look far back to see where many voters stand on this issues, Lockhart said, pointing to the ouster of self-described pro-life Democrat Joe Morrissey in a primary election earlier in the week. Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups worked alongside his primary opponent, Lashrecse Aird, who won by a wide margin.
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“I feel confident that Virginia voters are supportive of reproductive freedom. We know from polling that they’re supportive of reproductive freedom. So, we’ll be working with our supporters to make sure that they turn out to vote in this year’s elections,” Lockhart said.
With all 140 seats of the General Assembly up for grabs in November, CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said control of both chambers will likely come down to a dozen or so truly competitive races. The Dobbs decision and Youngkin will be factors in those races.
“Democrats, particularly in these competitive races, are going to emphasize the abortion issue. They’re going to say that is on the ballot, that is at risk in Virginia if the Republicans are able to keep the House and take the Senate. At the same time, you can be certain the Republicans are also going to say the Democrats have become too extreme,” Dr. Holsworth said.
“The challenge for the Republicans is can they in Virginia overcome the argument that they are going to ban abortion. That argument has been their nemesis in state after state recently. Can the Governor shift that narrative, and shift the narrative to his claim that the Democrats are not to be trusted?” he continued.
A Wason Center poll from earlier in the year found that 43% of voters they surveyed believe Virginia’s abortion laws should remain the same, 29% thought they should be less restrictive, and 23% support more restrictions.
The general election is November 7.