I sat in stunned disbelief as I read about the Texas anti-choice law that effects all abortions after six weeks, with no exception for rape or incest. The law effectively bans abortion before many women even know they are pregnant and incentivizes private citizens to sue anyone they suspect is involved in facilitating an abortion – paying them $10,000 if their lawsuit prevails. This law has frightening implications for our Virginia elections.
In reviewing our local candidates’ policy positions on abortion, there is a consistent theme. Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin said in a videotaped conversation that he would go “on offense” to limit abortion access once elected governor. The website for Del. Michael Webert (R-18th) states that he, “believes life begins at conception and is 100% pro-life.” It is clear that abortion access could be greatly limited or denied if they are elected.
Republican candidate for the 88th District, Phillip Scott, underscores his “tireless devotion to protecting the unborn.” The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Winsome Sears, recently said in a television interview that she would support a law in Virginia based on the Texas one.
These candidates claim to be “pro-life” and yet that stance seems to only apply to controlling women’s reproductive choices. They are opposed to bills that regulate or limit firearms possession, such as SB 479, which prohibits individuals subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm, or HB 9, which requires the reporting of lost or stolen firearms. These are commonsense measures that might have saved some of the 1,025 Virginians who died from gun violence in 2019 (Source: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics), in the most recent year for which data is available. Eighty-seven of those who died were children or teens under the age of 19.
My delegate, Webert, voted “no” on the measure to prohibit individuals subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm. He voted “no” on establishing gun-free zones on school board property. Pro-life?
He voted against accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid, which ended up providing health care coverage to more than 400,000 Virginians. Pro-life?
He voted against raising the minimum wage. Pro-life?
He voted against a bill to prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, health care and other services and goods offered to the general public. Pro-life?
By contrast, the Democratic majority in our state legislature has enacted several measures protecting a woman’s reproductive freedom. These include: eliminating Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law that would force a woman seeking an abortion to endure an unnecessary and intrusive procedure; eliminating a required 24-hour waiting period and counseling process, and rolling back unnecessary restrictions on reproductive health centers -- restrictions that were aimed at closing those centers offering abortions.
The Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe, has pledged to work with our state legislators to pass an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia permanently codifying the protections provided through Roe v. Wade. He is committed to addressing women’s health care inequities that result in poor prenatal care and maternal mortality that particularly affect women of color.
In May 2021, Hala Ayala, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, released her “reproductive rights” plan which includes passing a constitutional amendment to codify the right to an abortion, ensuring access to contraceptive care, starting a paid Family and Medical Leave Program and addressing maternal, fetal and infant mortality in our state.
Our current District 31 delegate, Democrat Elizabeth Guzman, is a strong proponent of a woman’s right to choose and to obtain quality reproductive health care. She was a co-sponsor of the General Assembly bill to ease restrictions for abortion coverage in state health insurance plans.
Why is this so critical? We are seeing a trend among states with a Republican majority towards extremist laws that will dramatically impact a women’s right to control her own body and life choices, while those same Republicans assert their rights to forgo their COVID vaccine or wear a mask in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
We must protect the inherent right — the constitutional right — of women in Virginia to make the difficult decisions involved in sustaining a pregnancy. For those of us who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth, we know the experience stays with you for the good or the bad.
This is real life: a life where young girls are sexually abused by a relative or family friend, high school and college girls are date raped, couples are faced with the horrific news of serious, fatal fetal deformities and women are subjected to heart-wrenching decisions after a failed attempt at birth control.
If your religious or personal beliefs dictate that you will not use contraception or get an abortion, so be it. Don’t.
However, do not impose your belief system on the rest of us. This is a nation that prides itself on freedom from religious oppression and government interference in our health care choices. Witness the lack of vaccine mandates.
Please stand up for Virginia women and vote for the Democrats in November.