RICHMOND, Va. — Lawmakers in the Virginia House of Delegates, controlled by Democrats who flipped the chamber in November after campaigning on abortion rights, decisively rejected a bill that would have instituted a near-total ban on abortion.
In a bipartisan 8-0 vote Wednesday night, a House subcommittee rejected the measure that would have banned abortions except in cases necessary to save the mother’s life, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported.
The bill’s sponsor, Tim Griffin, a freshman Republican from Bedford, faced questions about the implications his bill would have for care for miscarriages and rape victims. He responded that the bill was about “protecting unborn children and women,” according to the newspaper.
In a party-line vote, Democrats on the same panel rejected a different bill that would have banned abortions sought based on the sex or race of the fetus.
Abortion was a central issue in last year’s legislature. choices, when all General Assembly seats were on the ballot. Democrats campaigned on a promise to protect abortion access in Virginia, which has some of the most permissive laws in the South and is the only state in the region that has not imposed new restrictions on abortion since Roe v. Wade. The issue was seen as helping boost Democrats’ ability to control the state Senate and flip control of the House.
Republicans in competitive districts largely coalesced around Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Morgan Hopkins, spokesman for the House Democratic caucus, said Wednesday night’s votes marked the fulfillment of the party’s campaign promise.
“For months, House Democrats told Virginians that a Democratic majority would protect their rights and freedoms, and this subcommittee did just that tonight. “We believe that the choice to seek reproductive health care (and it is health care) should always be a decision between a woman and her doctor, not between politicians,” she said in a written statement shared with The Associated Press.
A spokesman for the House Republican caucus, Garren Shipley, declined to comment.
This session, Democratic-sponsored bills are advancing that would prevent the issuance of electronic or digital menstrual health data recording orders. Advocates say the measures would provide protections for women’s privacy and prevent such information from being used as a weapon in potential abortion-related court cases. Similar legislation passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote last year, but was opposed by the Youngkin administration and died in the House of Delegates, which was then controlled by Republicans.
Democrats have also promised to begin the years-long process of seeking to add abortion protections to the state Constitution, although they opted to postpone debate over the exact language until next year. Doing so does not affect the timeline on which voters could consider a proposed amendment.