Group of Va. Republicans gets ready to work on bill limiting abortion

A group of Republican lawmakers is getting ready to work on new legislation that would limit abortion access in Virginia, following last week’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin called together four Republicans to work on the bill: delegates Kathy Byron and Margaret Ransone, and senators Siobhan Dunnavant and Stephen Newman.

“We will soon get together and start working,” Newman said in an interview with WTOP. “It is incumbent upon us to figure out the method of getting a bill passed.”

Youngkin has often said that he opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest and when the health of the mother is at stake.

Newman said the starting point for Republicans will be to call for a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“We think that 15 weeks is a very good place to start,” Newman said. “If we need to move to a 20-week bill then we would do that, but we think the 15-week bill makes a lot more sense.”

Newman said the legislation would not direct law enforcement to go after pregnant women, but it would likely call for doctors who perform abortions after the cutoff to have their medical license pulled.

“The state licensing process is most likely the best way to go about enforcement,” Newman said.

Abortion is currently legal in Virginia through the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, which is about 26 weeks. Pregnant mothers can still get an abortion in the third trimester but they need three doctors to sign off, saying that the health of the mother is at risk.

Newman acknowledged that it won’t be easy to pass a bill limiting abortion with a divided government, as Republicans control the House of Delegates and Democrats control the Senate.

“We will need to get conservatives, moderates and some of the conservative Democrats to get this done,” Newman said.

Newman specifically referenced Sen. Joe Morrissey, a Democrat who previously signaled his support for an abortion ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw called the Supreme Court’s ruling “disturbing” and said he would not support an effort to limit abortion.

“We will not allow Virginia to turn back 50 years of progress of women’s reproductive rights,” Saslaw said. “We will stridently defend a woman’s right to choose.”

Democrats only have a one-seat majority in the Senate; a tie could be broken by Winsome Earle-Sears, the Republican lieutenant governor who serves as the president of the Senate.

A Roanoke College poll earlier this month, before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, found that 56% of Virginians polled disagreed with the draft opinion, leaked last month, that indicated the precedent would be overturned. Meanwhile, 32% of Virginians agreed with it. In a related question, 35% said abortion should be “legal under any circumstances,” while 53% said it should be “legal only under certain circumstances.”

The poll also found that Youngkin’s approval rating was slightly up – to 53% from 50% in a February Roanoke College poll – and his disapproval rating had dropped from 41% to 35%.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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