Virginia’s General Assembly passed a bill that repealed many of the State’s restrictions on abortion on Wednesday.
House Bill 980, also known as the Reproductive Health Protection Act, received final passage from the House of Delegates and was sent to Governor Ralph Northam for final approval on Wednesday. HB 980, which had initially passed the House of Delegates on a 52-45 vote, passed the Senate through Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax’s tie-breaking vote after it had been amended, and, on Wednesday, received final passage after the House of delegates adopted the Senate’s amendments.
The bill effectively revokes many of Virginia’s restrictions on abortion. It expands who can perform first trimester abortions by allowing physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives to perform them and removes the 24-hour mandatory waiting period imposed on women before getting an abortion. It also removes the requirement that women receive an ultrasound and counseling before getting an abortion.
Driven by Virginia’s democrats, the bill seems to be the lawmakers’ direct response to the many cases challenging Virginia’s laws on abortion.
Moreover, the General Assembly’s decision to pass the bill comes at a time when pro-choice groups are worried about the possibility that the US Supreme Court could overturn or significantly repeal Roe v. Wade, a 1973 case which established that the right to abort fell within a woman’s fundamental right of privacy and that a State’s undue restrictions on that right were unconstitutional .
Pro-choice advocates have praised the passage of the bill. As Senator Jennifer McClellan, sponsor of a similar bill originating in the Senate, said: “if ever there was a time to protect a woman’s bodily autonomy, that time is now.”
Pro-life advocates, on the other hand, have expressed their disapproval for the bill, arguing that the bill has lowered the standard of care and is thus dangerous for women.