Virginia Senate committee passes bill loosening abortion restrictions

Posted at 1:34 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 13:53:19-05

RICHMOND, Va. – With a newly-empowered Democratic majority at the Virginia General Assembly, abortion-rights advocates say the state has a chance to roll back decades of restrictions and become a “safe haven” for women in neighboring conservative states.

According to WTVR, pro-choice groups are pushing to undo Republican-backed laws, including a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and requirements for ultrasound and counseling.

A Senate committee passed that bill Thursday, a day after a House committee advanced that chamber’s version.

“These laws have been about shaming women, stigmatizing abortion, shutting off access, discouraging doctors from providing this care. And we say, we’ve had enough, the voters in Virginia have had enough, and now we’re going to act on it,” Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said at a press conference Wednesday.

Pro-choice groups say those restrictions injected politics into a decision that should be made by a woman and her doctor and made obtaining an abortion overly burdensome. Abortion opponents argued the laws protect pregnant women’s health and safety and are prudent given the gravity of the decision to obtain an abortion.

“There is no other procedure we deal with that ends the life of another person,” said Republican Sen. Stephen Newman, who opposed the bill.

The bills are advancing at a time when pro-choice advocates are increasingly worried the nation’s highest court could overturn or chip away at the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled in March to hear its first major abortion case since the addition of two justices appointed by President Donald Trump.

“Today’s vote is a victory for women’s health. We are on our way to reversing nearly 20 years’ worth of anti-choice policies that have made Virginia one of the most hostile places for abortion access,” said Leader Herring, who sponsored the bill. “No woman should be denied affordable and safe healthcare options.”