Local Commentary

Editorial: Alabama Coming to Virginia?

The Virginia House Democratic Caucus issued a stern warning yesterday after Alabama virtually outlawed abortion.

In a statement, the Caucus warned that Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country are escalating their coordinated assault on women’s reproductive rights noting that Tuesday, Alabama passed an already-infamous bill that would ban abortion in almost all circumstances, including in cases of rape or incest. The bill would also make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

The Alabama bill comes on the heels of a restrictive Georgia law passed this year that outlaws abortion past six weeks — a point at which many women do not yet know they are pregnant. This year, many other states have also introduced bills that would significantly restrict a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, in what National Public Radio calls “a broader anti-abortion strategy to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion.”

In Virginia, these restrictive and potentially unconstitutional bills are reminiscent of General Assembly Republicans’ attempt to force women to undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound before receiving an abortion. Despite Republican control of the executive branch, the Senate, and the House of Delegates, in 2012 Democrats were able to amend the wildly unpopular measure and change the medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound clause to a non-invasive transabdominal ultrasound.

The Republican majority also passed a Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) bill that placed burdensome and medically unnecessary restrictions on clinics providing access to abortion, by requiring the clinics to comply with hospital building standards. In 2014, under Governor Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia Board of Health amended these arbitrary requirements that were intended to shut down abortion clinics.

“This is a devastating nationwide trend in which Republicans in state legislatures are assaulting a woman’s right to make her own reproductive healthcare decisions. Virginia is no different — this year, Republicans in the House of Delegates have made it clear that their primary campaign platform is to restrict Virginia women’s access to abortion,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax).

Just last week, Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Stafford) was asked about the restrictive Georgia law on the John Fredericks Show, and he responded, “I don’t believe it’s too extreme… I would love to see Virginia move that way…”