Taking Away a Right

Taking Away a Right

Already the United States Supreme Court has taken away a right that existed for women for over 50 years when they overturned the earlier court decision, Roe v. Wade, that had granted women certain rights to reproductive freedom. As most people know, Roe v. Wade is the case that legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. Now that the decision on reproductive rights has been returned to the states for action, one can expect that a woman’s right to have an abortion will be debated in this session of the Virginia General Assembly.

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court made up of a majority who oppose abortion rights made a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) that ended the federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States. The ruling upheld Mississippi’s ban on abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, overturning Roe v. Wade.

Current Virginia law essentially parallels the federal right to an abortion that existed before the Dobbs decision. The difference is that the Supreme Court has granted states the right to establish their own laws on abortion. Several bills have already been introduced in the General Assembly that would eliminate abortion in Virginia or severely curtail it. The debate on these bills will be intense, and advocacy groups on both sides will be working hard to pass or defeat these bills as their position may dictate.

Governor Youngkin as a candidate for governor was quoted as having assured supporters that while he had to be quiet about abortion during the campaign to get himself elected he would take care of the issue once he was in office. Now, past a year in office we understand with clarity what he had in mind. In his speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, the Governor said, “When it comes to unborn children, we can come together. We can choose life, and choose to support mothers, fathers, and families in difficult decisions. This session, I have asked the General Assembly to come together to protect life at 15 weeks, the point at which a baby can feel pain. It is clear, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more.”

The Speaker of the House was quoted in the press as saying that the issue of abortion would not be taken up this session. What is the difference between the two Republican leaders? The Governor is delivering on a promise. The Speaker realizes that if his majority in the House votes to support abortion restrictions the Republicans are likely to lose their slim House majority, and he would lose his job.

Advocates for women having control of their bodies in making reproductive decisions — including men who support these rights — must continue putting pressure on legislators and the administration to defeat measures that would limit women’s rights.

Ultimately the decision will be made by voters in casting their votes for candidates this November.