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As Virginia reacts to potential SCOTUS abortion ruling, some look to state Senate

Supreme Court
Jose Luis Magana
Demonstrators protest outside of the Supreme Court Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington.

As the United States Supreme Court appears ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, advocates on both sides of the issue are preparing for how to handle state law on abortion.

Opponents of abortion rights in Virginia are already planning to support hospital construction standards for abortion clinics and ultrasound requirements for people seeking abortions. Even though Democrats hold a 21 to 19 majority in the Senate, Tarina Keene at Pro-Choice Virginia says Democratic state Senator Joe Morrissey's opposition to abortion rights complicates the issue – especially after the election last year.

"Before, we had a pro-choice lieutenant governor who was the tie-breaking vote in our bills," Keene says. "But we don't have that now with the new lieutenant governor, Winsome Sears."

So opponents of abortion rights in effect hold a majority in the House and in the Senate. But Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation says that does not mean bills restricting access to abortion will make their way to the governor.

"The problem is that because the Senate is controlled by Democrats, they control the committee process," Cobb says. "And we saw this session that they will go to great extremes to make sure that a bill never gets to the floor."

That means both sides of this issue will be looking to the 2023 election, when control of the House of Delegates and the state Senate will be up for grabs — potentially determining the future of abortion rights in Virginia for years to come.

In a statement, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin says he’s pro-life, but it’s premature to speculate on what the high court might do. He also bemoaned the leak itself – stating it was done to cause chaos and put pressure on Justices and elected officials.

Virginia Senator Mark Warner disagrees with the potential ruling.

In Charlottesville Tuesday evening, About fifty women and a few men gathered outside the federal building as rush hour commuters honked in support.

Charlottesville Abortion Protest
Sandy Hausman
Radio IQ
Protesters gather outside the federal building in Charlottesville Tuesday evening.

"This is such a huge step backwards that I just feel sad for the generations of girls and women that no longer have a choice," Linda Langman said.

"This is a topic that is super, super important to me," another protester said. "I think it is not just a women's issue, but an economic issue and a social justice issue. And we can't let this happen," Ariana Roumeliotes added.

Protesters said they hoped this issue might mobilize Democrats and independents to vote in the mid-term elections, making it possible that Congress would establish a national right to abortion by law.

Abortion rights supporters gather in Charlottesville
Sandy Hausman reports

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief