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Protect Abortion Access in Virginia

The Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June, holding that there is no constitutional right to abortion. This ruling marks the first time in history the Supreme Court has overruled the constitutionality of a fundamental right. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization does, however, permit states to legalize abortion, as Virginia currently does. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, there will certainly be efforts to reverse that Virginia law. Democrats must do everything we can to stop that from happening. As a matter of personal freedom, everyone should have control over their own bodies. No one should be forced to undergo pregnancy against their will. A ban on abortions denies people equal rights. Abortion bans also have racially discriminatory effects and inflict serious harm in other, less-often-discussed ways.

An abortion ban would significantly increase the maternal death rate, in some cases turning the inability to get an abortion into a death sentence. The United States already has the highest maternal death rate among developed countries. A recent study at the University of Colorado estimated that maternal deaths nationwide would increase by 21% within two years if most or all abortions are blocked, as the health risk of continuing a pregnancy to term is significantly higher than the risk of having a safe, legal abortion. Black and Hispanic people face much higher health risks during pregnancy than the U.S. population as a whole. Under an abortion ban, the maternal death rate for Black mothers would rise by 33%, and the rate for Hispanic mothers would rise by 18% within only two years. These figures do not include possible deaths from unsafe, illegal abortions that desperate mothers may choose to undergo if safe, legal abortions are unavailable. Moreover, several states have enacted prospective abortion bans that are now triggered by the Court’s decision. Many bans that have been introduced and passed since the leak do not contain exceptions for all cases in which the life or health of the mother is at risk. These extreme abortion bans will result in unnecessary death for people who face high pregnancy risks. Moreover, none of the figures cited consider the harm to people who face difficult, painful pregnancies even if they survive. Some people face serious long-term damage or disability from carrying a fetus to term.

Abortion bans may also deter people from conceiving a child in the first place. If abortions are banned, for example, a mother who learns her fetus has a severe diagnosis or abnormality with little chance of survival would have to carry her pregnancy to term. To avoid this fate, some may avoid getting pregnant altogether even if they desire a child. Abortion bans also complicate the in vitro fertilization process.

The families of those denied a desired abortion also would suffer from the ban. Most who seek an abortion do so out of concern for their capacity to support another child financially and emotionally, especially in light of the children they already have. A 2004 study found that 73% of those who sought an abortion did so at least in part because they could not afford to support a child. About 33% were concerned about their ability to care adequately, financially and otherwise, for their existing children if another child was added to the family.

Abortion remains legal in Virginia, but that status is not secure. Governor Youngkin opposes abortion. He promised a campaign supporter he would “go on offense” on the issue once he was elected. He has kept his word. Since the Dobbs ruling, Governor Youngkin has already told the press that he’s open to a complete abortion ban in Virginia and assembled an all-Republican, antiabortion group of legislators to craft and whip votes for a 15-week abortion ban next January. Earlier in June, Governor Youngkin also tried to narrow the already-limited circumstances in which Virginians can receive state funds for an abortion. Currently, people who are Medicaid-eligible may receive state funding for abortion care if their fetus suffers from “incapacitating” deformities or mental deficiencies. Governor Youngkin proposed a budget amendment that would have denied funding in these tragic cases. After passing on a party-line vote in the Virginia House of Delegates, the amendment was thankfully voted down by the razor-thin Democratic majority in the Virginia Senate. 

Because we have a razor-thin margin in the Virginia Senate and no majority in the House, Virginia Democrats must continue our work to preserve and expand abortion rights here and nationwide. Our state legislative elections take place in 2023, and this year, we need to keep Congress under Democratic control by keeping the House and electing at least two more Democratic Senators. You can help preserve abortion rights nationwide by joining Beyond Arlington, a group of Arlington Democrats that supports candidates throughout Virginia and in other states who favor abortion rights. If elected, the candidates they help can get us the votes in Congress to finally codify Roe and establish federal statutory protection for abortion. Then, residents of all states will have the right to abortion care even in the absence of constitutional protection.. 

Volunteers for Beyond Arlington write postcards, phone-bank, and knock on doors in local districts on selected weekends. This year they are supporting, among others, Virginia Congresswomen Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria. Beyond Arlington helped elect these representatives in past elections and is now working to ensure that they remain in Congress. In addition, its volunteers are assisting Pennsylvania Democrats with electing John Fetterman to the Senate, Josh Shapiro as Governor, and winning several difficult congressional races.  Beyond Arlington needs any and all help to protect abortion rights. You can sign up to help here

The need is great and it is immediate. Please give of your time as generously as you can.

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