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Abortion will be a hot topic in Richmond this year, just don't expect much to change

Virginia Legislature
John C. Clark
FR171764 Associated Press
Republican members of the Virginia legislature applaud Gov. Glenn Youngkin's State of the Commonwealth speech during a joint session of the General Assembly in Richmond, Va. on Wednesday Jan. 11, 2023.

Abortion is likely to be one of the hottest topics the General Assembly will consider this year. But, don't expect much to happen as a result.

Both sides in the abortion debate will tell you that polling shows the public is on their side. Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert points to polling that shows most people favor some kind of restriction if there’s exceptions for life of the mother, rape or incest.

"The public is looking for us to be reasonable about this issue and looking for us to find a place where they think reasonable restrictions should lie," Gilbert says. "I think the vast majority of the polling of the public would tell you that people favor reasonable restrictions on abortion. They don't favor this constitutional amendment, which would allow for that to occur right up until the moment of birth."

The amendment he’s talking about would write current Virginia legal protections into the state Constitution, which supporters say allows for abortion through the second trimester, but not up until the moment of birth.

House Democratic Leader Don Scott says the poll that really matters is at the ballot box, where voters in Virginia Beach recently elected a candidate supporting abortion rights.

"How many times does the governor and politicians across the aisle need to be told by Virginians no," Scott asks. "They do not want an abortion ban. A ban is dangerous for women and it's downright wrong."

Republican efforts to create a 15-week ban in the House will likely be defeated in the Senate. And Democratic efforts to protect abortion rights in the Senate will likely be defeated in the House.

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.