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NBC: Virginia governor may seek 15-week abortion ban if GOP takes Legislature

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is pictured in an April 25, 2023, photo. Youngkin is said to be considering a 15-week abortion ban as legislation that could have enough social consensus behind it. (OSV News photo/Ann Wang, Reuters)

(OSV News) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin will seek the passage of a 15-week abortion ban if Republicans gain control of the state’s General Assembly this fall, NBC News reported.

The General Assembly is a bicameral body that consists of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, and an upper house, the Senate of Virginia. Republicans currently control the House of Delegates but not the Senate, which defeated a similar abortion ban earlier this year.

NBC News reported that Youngkin and his political team “are devoting significant resources to gaining Republican control of the General Assembly this fall,” and are planning a “conservative agenda” that would include legislation lowering the state’s current abortion limit from 26 weeks and six days gestation to 15 weeks. The proposal would include exceptions for cases of rape or incest, or a maternal mortality risk.

The report said that Youngkin’s team, using focus groups, has identified a 15-week ban as an area of consensus, setting up a contrast to other GOP-led states that have enacted 12- or six-week bans.

In a statement shared with OSV News, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said that “Virginians elected a pro-life governor and he supports finding consensus on legislation which would extend protections from Virginia’s current standard to when babies begin to feel pain in the womb at 15-weeks with exceptions.”

Porter said the governor’s stance contrasted with the “extreme position” on abortion advanced by Senate Democrats who “unveiled a constitutional amendment that endorses abortion at any point during the pregnancy, including when a baby feels pain all the way up until the moment of birth.”

Virginia is the only state in the South that has not enacted additional abortion restrictions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that led to widespread legal abortion access in the U.S., although not all of those measures are currently in effect, such as those in Florida, which are subject to a legal challenge. As a regional outlier, activists on both sides of the abortion debate see Virginia as a future battleground on the issue.

Youngkin has previously expressed support for a 15-week ban, telling WSET-TV in May that “I think we can come together around a 15-week bill and that’s what I have been very clear about. I think we should continue to work on that.”

Youngkin — who defied some political forecasts when he flipped the governor’s mansion red in 2021, succeeding former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam — was seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, but his team has downplayed such rumors, saying his sole focus is Virginia.

The national group SBA Pro-Life America has called on Republican presidential candidates to specifically back a federal 15-week gestational limit on abortion, but only three of the top nine candidates have done so as of Aug. 28.

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.

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