Friday, August 18, 2023

Abortion on the Ballot

There were two big stories in the news last week about the state-by-state effort to protect abortion access and freedom to make medical decisions governing bodily autonomy.

In Ohio, voters soundly rejected a Republican-backed effort to change the rules to prevent voters from updating their state constitution to guarantee abortion access. This vote in a state with a Republican-controlled state legislature and a state that has become increasingly Republican in recent elections was seen as a sign of just how potent the issue of abortion access can be in state level elections - even elections held in odd years and at odd times.

Also last week, we learned a Republican candidate for the House of Delegates was caught on tape advocating for a “total ban” on abortions in Virginia. In recorded conversations obtained by the Washington Post, Republican John Stirrup, running in one of a handful of truly competitive seats this November in Prince William County said, “I am in favor of a complete ban,” and “I’d like to see, you know, a total ban.”

He's up against Democratic nominee Josh Thomas, a veteran of the Marine Corps and an abortion rights supporter who advocates for leaving Virginia’s abortion laws as they are today.

Stirrup is not the only Republican office-seeker or elected official in Virginia to be caught on tape expressing support for the most extreme abortion restrictions. Last year, unsuccessful congressional candidate Yesli Vega was recorded making controversial statements in questioning the need for rape exceptions to an abortion ban. Governor Glenn Youngkin himself whispered his desire to ban abortion to supporters in a caught-on-tape moment in 2021.

Then, after being sworn in, Youngkin was recorded telling the Family Foundation he’d sign the most restrictive abortion legislation they could get to his desk at what he thought was a closed event.

In Virginia, we can’t put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to protect abortion access without the help of the General Assembly, and that won’t happen if we elect state legislators who want a total ban on abortions.

That makes this fall’s election the closest thing we will get to a referendum on abortion access in Virginia.

If Democrats can regain control of the General Assembly, Virginia's abortion laws will stay as they are today, with residents of the Commonwealth remaining free to make their own medical decision in consultation with their medical providers. Virginia is the only state in the south to not have instituted abortion restrictions after the Dobb’s decision last summer. And this is only because Democrats currently hold the state Senate.

With control of both the House and Senate, we can pass a resolution to put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot that would make access to abortion a constitutionally protected right in Virginia, just as it was at the federal level before the Dobb’s decision.

On the other hand, if Republicans are able to use Governor Youngkin’s vast financial resources to tip the balance in a handful of House and Senate seats, we face the possibility of a Republican trifecta. With no check on their power to rewrite Virginia law, there is no doubt such a result would pave the way for restrictive abortion laws that severely curtail access and wind back the clock on hard-fought advancements.

In the year plus since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, Republican-controlled legislatures have shown us repeatedly what they are capable of – from drastically reducing access to outright bans. So, when the Virginia GOP says it will support a total ban and Governor Youngkin says he’ll sign any abortion ban that reaches his desk, believe them.

Although Falls Church is very likely to elect candidates supportive of Virginia’s existing abortion laws, you can still impact the results statewide. Some of the handful of districts that are true toss-ups are within relatively easy driving distance of the Little City. And there are things you can do from the comfort of your own home to mobilize voters and let them know what’s at stake in these key districts.

For more information on how to actively participate in the most pivotal races of this election, I encourage you to contact my office. Together, we can make a difference and shape the outcome of these elections, ensuring that Virginia remains a beacon of progress and inclusivity.

Let us not underestimate the significance of the choices we make in the voting booth. Our decisions in this election will reverberate for years to come, setting the course for the future of Virginia and its commitment to abortion access. Stand up, be counted, and make your voice heard – for the sake of the future we want for our Commonwealth.