Virginia Legislature Passes Bill Rolling Back Abortion Restrictions

The Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond (Jay Paul/Reuters)

Virginia lawmakers on Thursday sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would roll back several abortion restrictions, including the requirement that an abortion be provided by a physician.

In a 53-to-45 vote, the Democrat-controlled House passed the Reproductive Health Protection Act, which scraps the 24-hour mandatory waiting period for a woman before getting an abortion as well as the requirement that women seeking an abortion receive an ultrasound and counseling. The legislation also eliminates the requirement that abortions be performed by a physician, allowing other medical professional to perform first trimester abortions.

The bill now goes to the desk of Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, who is expected to sign it.

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Last month, the state Senate passed the bill in a 20-to-20 vote with Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of the legislation. A day earlier, the Virginia House passed a similar version of the bill, but since the Senate amended the legislation it was sent back to the House for a final approval.

Pro-life advocates have slammed the bill as dangerous for women, saying it lowers the standard of care for women who elect to have abortions and gets rid of wise precautions.

Republican state Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, who is also an OB-GYN, said the 24-hour waiting period is “incredibly prudent,” recalling her “painful” experiences counseling women who had abortions because they felt pressured to do so but later regretted their decision.

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

Abortion supporters praised the bill’s passage, calling it a victory for Virginia women and proof that “elections matter.”

“For too long, anti-choice politicians in Virginia have erected roadblock after roadlock to prevent women from accessing abortion care, meddling in people’s lives to advance an extreme agenda of control,”said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America in a statement hailing the measure.

The acting president of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson, remarked that, “Last November, voters in the Commonwealth rejected an inflammatory campaign to ban abortion and sent reproductive rights majorities in both chambers to Richmond. Today, those majorities mark a new chapter.”

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