Virginia’s Congressional Delegation Splits Along Party Lines in Vote to Legally Codify Abortion Rights

People marching for women's rights
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Virginia’s congressional delegation split along party lines on a vote to legally codify providers’ right to provide abortions and patients’ right to receive abortions. The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 passed out of the House of Representatives Friday in a 218-211 vote with no Republicans voting for, and no Democrats voting against, although two Republicans and one Democrat did not vote. The bill now faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

A recent Texas abortion ban brought the issue back to the forefront in both national and Virginia politics, and has underscored the vulnerability of the Roe v. Wade decision in a conservative Supreme Court. That has led to renewed calls to legally codify abortion from progressives, but it has also energized pro-life advocates, and put pressure on moderate candidates.

The bill will codify abortion rights, create protections against state laws, and “prohibit medically unwarranted restrictions that single out abortion services,” according to Congressman Donald McEachin’s (D-VA-04) press release praising the bill.

He said, “The reality is that abortion rates continue to decrease while support for reproductive health care remains strong. I am proud to be an original cosponsor and help pass this crucial legislation to reinforce and codify a woman’s constitutional right to choose.”

“This dangerous bill would prevent the passage of new laws such as a pain capable unborn child protection act, dismemberment abortion ban, or a law that would protect babies who survive an abortion attempt. It would also mean we would not be allowed to restore Virginia’s life-saving Women’s Right to Know informed consent law,” Virginia Society for Human Life President Olivia Gans Turner said in a press release.

She added, “This bill that pretends to be concerned about women’s health care is nothing more than an effort to protect the abortion industry and its promoters. Women and their babies will pay the deadly high price.”

After the vote passed, several Democratic congressmen from Virginia issued press releases praising the bill.

“Women have the right to make decisions about their health care. That has been understood by courts and lawmakers for decades, at least until last month, when the Supreme Court upheld a blatantly unconstitutional law in Texas. I was proud to vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act to finally codify the rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. We must protect reproductive rights,” Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) said.

“For years, radical state legislatures have waged an all-out assault on women’s reproductive rights.  2021 is on track to be the worst legislative year for women’s health rights ever, with 90 measures restricting reproductive rights enacted since July – more than in any year since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,” states a press release from Congressman Don Beyer (D-Virginia-08).

“As radical lawmakers across the nation wage an all-out assault against reproductive rights, I just voted to fight back and protect women’s health,” Beyer said.

“The right to a safe and legal abortion is under attack as never before. State legislatures across the country are eagerly advancing efforts to control a woman’s freedom to make decisions about her own reproductive health,” Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) said. “The Women’s Health Protection Act that we passed today defends the right to choose and empowers legal challenges against the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, like in Texas and Mississippi.”

On September 1, Congressman Bob Good (R-VA-05) introduced a bill that would ban telehealth abortions unless healthcare providers perform a physical in advance of the abortion and are physically present during the abortion. At the time, he said, “Abortion is morally wrong under any circumstance.”

In a press release Friday he blasted the Women’s Health Protection Act, saying the name is an intentional misrepresentation.

“This is the most radical expansion of abortion rights in our nation’s history,” Good said. “I will not stand quietly by as Democrats in Congress seek to massively expand the murder of innocent life in America.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].

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