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Some state Democrats want a special session to protect abortion rights

Republicans are about to take power in Richmond. But Democrats will still be in power until mid-January. And, many of them are urging lawmakers to convene in a special lame duck session.

In Washington, lame duck sessions are pretty common — especially when one party loses power and another party is about to take office. It's not as common in Richmond. But Delegate Joshua Cole of Fredericksburg says now is the time for Democrats to write Roe versus Wade into the Virginia code.

"There is a possibility that they could get restrictions through and even hindering women's rights to choose and abortion rights," Cole says. "And so for us it's really incumbent upon us as the outgoing Democratic majority to put protections in place that can't be rolled back."

It's an idea that has gained purchase among House Democrats, but Senate Democrats have not exactly been jazzed about the idea. They would need all of their members to give up their holiday plans, and that’s an idea that has not gained traction among Senate leadership.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says Senators are hearing from activists about the need to take action on this issue now.

"If you imagine that the Supreme Court ends up with a ruling that gives states more or less local option on abortion, which could come out of this case that they’re considering now," Farnsworth explains. "Virginia is sort of in a vague area with respect to its own state abortion laws."

The next General Assembly session starts on January 12th. So if Democrats are going to pull this off, they'll need to take action pretty quickly — and do it over the holidays.

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.