Youngkin ‘cautiously optimistic’ that Virginia can pass abortion restrictions

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin traveled around the country at a furious pace ahead of the midterm elections in order to attend rallies with Republican candidates for governor in other states, but now he is getting ready for January’s legislative session in Richmond, Virginia.

In an interview with WTOP on Tuesday, Youngkin outlined some of his legislative priorities, including setting new abortion restrictions in the state.

However, it won’t be easy to pass such a bill in Virginia’s divided General Assembly, with Republicans controlling the House of Delegates and Democrats in control of the Senate.

“We are still working and I’m cautiously optimistic,” Youngkin said, referring to himself as a “pro-life governor.”

Following the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion earlier this year, Youngkin called together a group of Republican lawmakers to begin working on legislation that would limit abortion access.

“I’m encouraged by the work that our leading legislators have made, and I do hope they can deliver a bill to my desk that would, in fact, restrict abortion after 15 weeks,” Youngkin said.

Youngkin added that there would be exceptions in cases of “rape and incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.”

“Virginians want fewer abortions, not more, and I think this is a good place for Virginia to land,” Youngkin added.

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 their health is at risk.

Abortion was on the minds of many voters in Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to an extensive survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Nearly half of voters named the economy as the top issue facing the country; many other issues were named most important by about 1 in 10 voters, including abortion, health care, climate change and gun policy.

According to the survey, the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion was broadly unpopular. About 6 in 10 voters said they were angry or dissatisfied by it, while about 4 in 10 said they were pleased.

Virginians’ opinions on abortion are mixed: In a survey this fall by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center, two-thirds of those polled said they think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. At the same time, 51% of respondents in the same survey said they’d support a 15-week ban like Youngkin’s.

On Tuesday, voters in Vermont, California and Michigan added abortion rights to their state constitutions; an effort to explicitly remove abortion as a right in the Kentucky constitution failed.

Nick Iannelli

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

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