Current Abortion Legislation

Current Abortion Legislation 1
One Billion Rising on 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade. Photo Credit to Steve Rhodes


Current Situation: Although the Roe v. Wade landmark supreme court case took place over 40 years ago, abortion is still a highly debated civil rights issue in American and Virginian politics.  Pro life and pro choice activists continue to spar over the perceived benefits and risks of increased access to abortion, and multiple pieces of legislation relating to the topic of abortion are presented in both the Virginia General Assembly and the United States Congress every year.  Abortion is a highly controversial and sensitive topic, and abortion activists on both sides of the aisle have found it hard to achieve common ground on legislation.



Source: Thirteen

Landmark Cases:

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Roe v. Wade (1973) ruled unconstitutional a state law that banned abortions except to save the life of the mother. The Court ruled that the states were forbidden from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, could only enact abortion regulations reasonably related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters, and could enact abortion laws protecting the life of the fetus only in the third trimester. Even then, an exception had to be made to protect the life of the mother. Controversial from the moment it was released, Roe v. Wade politically divided the nation more than any other recent case and continues to inspire heated debates, politics, and even violence today (“the culture wars”).

Planned Parenthood v. Casey

In Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992), the Supreme Court affirmed the basic ruling of Roe v. Wade that the state is prohibited from banning most abortions. Casey also ruled, however, that states may regulate abortions so as to protect the health of the mother and the life of the fetus, and may outlaw abortions of “viable” fetuses. The abortion debates began in 1973, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade created a political and legal upheaval nationwide. Many states openly defied Roe by passing new laws that prohibited abortions. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, sought to circumvent Roe by imposing procedural hurdles upon women seeking abortions.

Pro Choice Movement

Source: National Abortion Federation

History of Abortion

Abortion has been performed for thousands of years, and in every society that has been studied. It was legal in the United States from the time the earliest settlers arrived. At the time the Constitution was adopted, abortions before “quickening” were openly advertised and commonly performed.

In the mid-to-late 1800s states began passing laws that made abortion illegal. The motivations for anti-abortion laws varied from state to state. One of the reasons included fears that the population would be dominated by the children of newly arriving immigrants, whose birth rates were higher than those of “native” Anglo-Saxon women.

Pro Choice Organizations in Virginia

Naral Pro-Choice Virginia

ACLU of Virginia

Virginia League for Planned Parenthood


Pro Life Movement

Source: Organization of American Historians

Abolishing Abortion: The History of the Pro-Life Movement in America

By Jennifer L Holland

In March 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump argued that women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were made illegal. Trump quickly reversed himself, but the previously pro-choice candidate had stumbled into an argument that pro-life advocates have studiously avoided over the last forty years for fear of being labelled antiwoman. Some social observers looked at such statements and wondered if they signaled the declining importance of pro-life politics, and social conservatism more broadly, to the Republican party. Is the antiabortion movement no longer relevant in the United States? Those who would answer yes might suffer from myopia. In fact, the antiabortion movement, in its many iterations, has radically transformed Americans’ ideas about women’s bodies, reproduction, feminist politics, and of course, fetal life. In the two centuries the movement has existed, its constituencies, tactics, and tools have all changed.

Pro Life Organizations in Virginia

Virginia Society for Human Life

The Family Foundation of Virginia

Pro-life Action League



General Assembly

Source: Naral Pro Choice Virginia

REPro Equal Access Laws (SB 1451 – HB 2491)

Patrons: Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Kathy Tran

Status: SB 1451 died in Senate Committee on Education and Health, HB 2491 died in House Committee on Courts.


Reproductive Freedom Act (SB 1637 – HB 2369)

Patrons: Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Charniele Herring

Status: SB 1637 died in Senate Committee on Education and Health, HB 2369 was left in House Committee on Rules.


Constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortion (HJ 715)

Patron: Delegate Kathy Byron

Status: Left in House Committee on Privileges and Elections


Repeal ultrasound requirement for abortion (SB 1054)

Patron: Senator Mamie Locke

Status: Incorporated into SB 1451 and passed by indefinitely in Senate Committee on Education & Health.


Senate Committees

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

Committee on Education and Health

Subcommittees: Certificate of Public Need, Health Care, Health Professions. Higher Education, Public Education


Newman, Stephen (Chair-R)   Barker, George (D)
Black, Dick (R)
Carrico, Bill (R)
Chase, Amanda (R)
Cosgrove, John (R)
Dunnavant, Siobhan (R)
Howell, Janet (D)
Lewis, Lynwood (D)
Locke, Mamie (D)
Lucas, Louise (D)
Peake, Mark (R)
Petersen, Chap (D)
Saslaw, Dick (D)
Suetterlein, Dave (R)



House Committees

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions


Orrock, Bobby (Chair) (R)
Aird, Lashrecse (D)
Bell, Dickie (R)
Bell, Rob (R)
Delaney, Karrie (D)
Edmunds, James (R)
Garrett, Scott (R)
Hayes, Cliff (D)
Head, Christopher (R)
Helsel, Gordon (R)
Hodges, Keith (R)
Hope, Patrick (D)
James, Matthew (D)
Levine, Mark (D)
Peace, Chris (R)
Pogge, Brenda (R)
Price, Cia (D)
Rasoul, Sam (D)
Robinson, Roxann (R)
Rodman, Debra (D)
Sickles, Mark (D)
Stolle, Chris (R)

US Congress

Senate Committees

Source: HELP

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

-Subcommittee on Children and Families (^)

-Subcomittee on Employment and Workplace Safety (“)

-Subcomittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security (*)


Alexander, Lamar (Chairman, R-TN)^”*
Murray, Patty (Ranking Member, D-WA)^”*
Burr, Richard (R-NC)^”
Paul, Rand (R-KY)^”
Scott, Tim (R-SC)^”*
Romney, Mitt (R-UT)^”*
Braun, Mike (R-IN)”*
Baldwin, Tammy (D-WI)”*
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)”*
Smith, Tina (D-MN)^”
Jones, Doug (D-AL)”*
Rosen, Jacky (D-NV)”*




House Committees

Subcomittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (House Appropriations Committee)

Ranking Members

DeLauro, Rose (Chair, D-CT)

Cole, Tom (Ranking Member, R-OK)


Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services (House Committee on Education and Labor)

Ranking Members

Bonamici, Suzanne (Chair, D-OR)

Comer, James (Ranking Member, R-KY)


Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions (House Committee on Education and Labor)

Ranking and Virginia Members

Wilson, Frederica S. (Chair, D-FL)

Walberg, Tim (Ranking Member, R-MI)

Bobby Scott (D-VA)


Subcomittee on Health (House Committee on Energy and Commerce)

Ranking and Virginia Members

Eshoo, Anna (Chair, D-CA)

Burgess, Michael C. (Ranking Member, R-TX)

Griffith, Morgan (R-VA)


Subcomittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (House Committee on the Judiciary)

Ranking and Virginia Members

Cohen, Steve (Chair, D-TN)

Johnson, Mike (Ranking Member, R-LA)

Cline, Ben (R-VA)


Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (House Committee on Oversight and Reform)

Ranking Members

Raskin, Jamie (Chair, D-MD)

Roy, Chip (Ranking Member, R-TX)


Subcommittee on Health (House Committee on Ways and Means)

Ranking Members

Doggett, Lloyd (Chair, D-TX)

Nunes, Devin (Ranking Member, R-CA)


Polls and Statistics

Source: Pew Research Center

National Public Opinion Poll, 1995-2019

As of 2019, public support for legal abortion remains as high as it has been in two decades of polling. Currently, 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 38% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Public Opinion in Virginia

Views about abortion by state (2014)

Virginia matched the national average for support of abortion in all or most cases in 2014, with 55% of Virginia adults and 55% of US adults supporting access to abortion.

State stats: Virginia

Source: The Guttmacher Institute

State Facts About Abortion: Virginia

In 2014, some 21,080 abortions were provided in Virginia, though not all abortions that occurred in Virginia were provided to state residents, as some patients may have traveled from other states; likewise, some individuals from Virginia may have traveled to another state for an abortion. There was a 23% decline in the abortion rate in Virginia between 2011 and 2014, from 16.3 to 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Abortions in Virginia represent 2.3% of all abortions in the United States.


How the debate over the ERA became a fight over Abortion

Source: Politico

By Eleanor Mueller and And Alice Miranda Ollstein

February 11, 2020

Advocates for the ERA acknowledge that abortion needs to be part of the conversation. Any debate over women’s rights, they say, must also address control over when and whether to have children.

“There are no equal rights for women without access to abortion, plain and simple,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.

Democrats Discuss Abortion Rights in Depth at Debate

Source: The New York Times

By Stephanie Saul

February 7, 2020

In their most substantive debate statements to date on abortion, several of the leading Democratic presidential candidates reaffirmed on Friday night that if elected, they would put forward only Supreme Court nominees who supported Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing a woman’s right to abortion.

Historically, many presidential candidates have shied away from an outright litmus test on abortion or any other issue, arguing that Supreme Court justices should not be selected based on their political positions but on their experience and jurisprudence. But that has changed this campaign cycle.

How abortion in Virginia went from a Trump talking point to a winning issue for Democrats

Source: Vox

By Anna North

January 30, 2020

The Democratic wins in 2019 meant legislators could advance a number of progressive priorities in 2020, including a measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which passed earlier this month.

And on January 7, McClellan prefiled the Reproductive Health Protection Act in the Senate. Del. Charniele Herring, the first woman and the first person of color to become the majority leader of the House of Delegates, introduced the bill in the House.

The bill repeals a number of restrictions on abortion, most of them introduced by Republican legislators in the past 10 years. In addition to the ultrasound and waiting period requirements, it also gets rid of the requirement that doctors offer patients certain printed materials about abortion.


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