Over the past decade, conservatives in Virginia have proposed more than 100 legislative and regulatory restrictions on abortion access. This coordinated, concerted campaign to restrict access to abortion in Virginia and try to put it practically out of reach for many in our communities, in particular for people with low incomes and in communities of color, is radical.
The Repeal Act, however, is neither new nor radical. It simply would put people and their doctors back in charge of their health care and reject political interference in a woman’s — or any person’s — deeply personal medical decisions.
A variation of the bill was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The bill would not change the timing of when an abortion can occur in Virginia and is consistent with constitutional precedent, including Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. It’s also important to bring attention to polling from The Post, which shows that a “clear majority” of Virginians support later abortion if a woman’s health is at risk.
These facts, unfortunately, are failing to cut through the noise. It’s disappointing, though not that surprising, to see the debate centered on out-of-context clips and inflammatory rhetoric instead of the vision that many of us see for the commonwealth — one in which Virginians don’t face nearly insurmountable barriers to accessing reproductive health care and in which all families can thrive.
Members of Virginia’s Pro-Choice Coalition, which includes my organization and NLIRH Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, Progress Virginia and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, fear this kind of public distortion is both purposeful and a preview of what’s yet to come.
It doesn’t take a political expert to predict that abortion will be a hard-line issue that conservatives use to motivate their base ahead of and into this fall’s Virginia General Assembly elections. Moreover, with attention focused on the misinformation around the Repeal Act, anti-women’s health politicians are hoping voters are too distracted to notice their ongoing campaign to limit reproductive health-care access.
This year, state lawmakers have introduced budget amendments to restrict abortion access, defund medical providers such as Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health and limit birth control options for Virginians who are uninsured or have lower incomes. These proposals are flying under the radar and, if passed, would be a devastating blow to people in our state.
In the commonwealth, conservatives are pioneering a playbook to weaponize reproductive rights ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
As members of this coalition, we’re no strangers to politically charged falsehoods about abortion. But now, the stakes are higher than ever — in Virginia and nationwide.
With two new Supreme Court justices in place — including Brett M. Kavanaugh, who completely ignored the 2016 ruling on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt when he argued in favor of a Louisiana law that would make access to safe and legal abortion in the state nearly impossible — conservatives see a path to erase Roe, along with decades of common-sense public-health policy. They have spent years working to gut Roe’s protections by ensuring that political barriers make abortion virtually inaccessible to many women, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable. In a post-Roe America, there would be no limit on their ability to ban abortion and criminalize women who seek abortion care.
With these threats looming, let’s reorient the conversation.
The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a deeply personal one that should be made by a patient in consultation with her medical provider. When abortion later in pregnancy does occur, it is very often because a woman’s health or life is in danger or the pregnancy is no longer viable. And everyone’s pregnancy is different and unique — individuals and their doctors should be able to make the decision that is right for them, without political interference or judgment.