The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overruled Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion nearly 50 years after the landmark case was decided. The ruling comes after a draft majority opinion was leaked in May indicating that it could be overturned.
In a split decision, the 6-3 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling gives states the authority to decide whether their citizens should have the right to an abortion. The six votes came from each of the six justices in the conservative bloc.
“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” the court opinion reads.
Since the states can decide their own restrictions, here’s how the end of the federal protection could affect Virginia:
Virginia’s elected officials react
Reactions from Virginia’s elected officials reflect the “profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views” that the majority justices cited in the opinion.
“The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement. “I'm proud to be a pro-life governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life.”
In the statement, Youngkin said Virginians want fewer abortions — not more.
“We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life,” the statement reads.
Youngkin added that he’s asked Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, and Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, to help “bring together legislators and advocates from across the Commonwealth on this issue to find areas where we can agree and chart the most successful path forward,” according to the statement.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who is also president of the Democratic Mayors Association, said in a statement from DMA that the Supreme Court has “wrongly decided to overturn a landmark decision that has preserved millions of Americans reproductive rights and privacy."
The DMA believes women deserve the freedom to make decisions about their bodies and that abortion is a fundamental healthcare right, according to the statement.
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“As local leaders, we have already initiated efforts to protect our communities and their reproductive liberties in the wake of federal inaction,” Stoney said.
UR’s city council and state representatives react
Rep. A. Donald McEachin, who represents Virginia’s Fourth District that includes the University of Richmond, said the decision was an attack on constitutionally protected freedoms.
“The Supreme Court, comprised largely of Trump-appointed justices, is undermining the legitimacy of its institution while ushering in a dangerous and unprecedented dynamic,” McEachin said in a statement. “This decision is one of the greatest rollbacks of rights in recent times and represents the first time our daughters will have less rights than their mothers.”
In response to the ruling, Del. Dawn Adams, representing the 68th District and UR, tweeted that the U.S. was entering a “very dark era” in the nation’s history.
“Church and state are no longer separated, states do not have the legislative right to impose strict gun laws, but states DO have the right to impose strict abortion bans,” Adams’ said in the tweet.
Tenth District Sen. Ghazala F. Hashmi also noted in a tweet that Youngkin’s statement refers to working toward “bipartisan consensus" on abortion before proceeding to appoint only Republican legislators.
“Virginians want abortion care to be safe and legal in VA,” Hashmi tweeted. “That's bipartisan.”
What this means for University of Richmond students
Abortion is legal in Virginia during the first and second trimester. During the third trimester, abortions are only legal if the pregnancy is likely to result in serious mental or physical strain — including death, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Abortion in Virginia is only covered by insurance for public employees in cases of “life endangerment, rape, incest or fetal impairment,” according to Guttmacher. Parents of minors must be notified and consent to their child’s abortion. Public funding of an abortion is also available in certain cases.
Clinics in Richmond that provide abortions include Planned Parenthood, Richmond Medical Center for Women and A Capital Women's Health Clinic. Abortion pills can also be accessed through the mail by going online.
What comes next
Following Friday’s ruling, 22 states had laws in place that would immediately ban or restrict access to abortions, according to data from NPR and Guttmacher. Thirteen states had “trigger bans” that went effect immediately after the ruling, completely restricting abortions under the majority of circumstances.
Additional states are expected to make legislative decisions regarding abortions in the coming weeks.
Despite abortion rights being secure for now, Virginia residents will be voting in some of the most significant midterm elections this year. The GOP aims to win control of the General Assembly, which is currently split — Republicans have control of the House, but not the Senate. Voting for midterm elections begins on Nov. 8.
In 2020, 18,740 abortions were provided in Virginia, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute. For every 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44, 11 would have received an abortion. Qualified health professionals, not solely physicians, are still allowed to perform abortions.
Youngkin is seeking to plan abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy following Friday’s decision, as first reported by The Washington Post. Youngkin also appointed four Republican legislators to prepare the legislation for the next General Assembly session.
“I've asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January,” Youngkin said in his statement.
Contact copy chief at Madyson Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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