Virginia lawmakers vote to roll back 2012 abortion restrictions

Virginia is set to roll back abortion restrictions — such as a 24-hour waiting period and a required transabdominal ultrasound — that GOP lawmakers implemented nearly a decade ago.

The newly Democratic-led House of Delegates voted 52-45 Tuesday to repeal the 2012 mandatory waiting period; ultrasound requirement; specific disclosure requirements; and the requirements that some doctors’ offices where first-trimester abortions occur meet hospital construction standards.

The bill would also allow licensed physician assistants, nurse practitioners or nurse midwives to perform abortions in the first trimester.

“This bill goes back to the basic principle that this is between a woman and [her] doctor,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, said Monday.

The House Republican Caucus leader, Del. Kathy Byron of Bedford County, described the bills as obliterating safeguards for women.

Several large groups representing physicians and medical groups, though, support the changes to remove restrictions they see as medically unnecessary, said Del. Patrick Hope, an Arlington Democrat.

“These restrictions are only aimed to limit a woman’s ability to access safe and legal abortion care, and it’s time to finally roll back these outdated laws that are not based on health and are not based on safety,” Hope said.

A Senate version of the bill, expected to be approved Wednesday afternoon, would add nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, but not physician assistants, to the list of approved providers.

The versions will then cross to the other chamber for approval by the end of session March 7.

Other votes

The Senate voted Tuesday in favor of moving the June primary back a week over school security concerns.

On a 24-16 vote that was not at all along party lines, the Senate supported moving June primaries in future years from the second week to the third week. It’s designed to help voters avoid a school-year conflict between going to the ballot box and transporting students.

It is unclear whether the bill will pass the House this year.

The Senate also voted 23-17 to expand a gun possession ban from anyone under a domestic violence-related permanent protective order to anyone under a permanent protective order. The bill also adds details on how guns can be transferred within 24 hours of the order being issued by a court.

Among other bills approved by the House or Senate on Tuesday: Virginia State Police would collect data on hate crimes due to sexual orientation or gender identity; the state could repeal an unconstitutional law banning same-sex marriage; and all schools would have to send parents information about lockdown drills, and about the dangers of tobacco and vaping.

The General Assembly also appears on track to repeal the crime of spitting in public; ban duck blinds in areas such as the U.S. Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County, where localities ban hunting; create a special elk hunting license; and require licensing for operators of boilers in apartment or other large buildings.

The Senate also voted to study building code rules to ensure better responses to active shooters, and to require that emergency rooms have better plans for treating drug abusers and overdose cases.

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