VIRGINIA, USA — The battle over the future of abortion in Virginia appears to be heating up.
On Thursday, Governor Glenn Youngkin revealed his amendment proposals for Virginia’s 2023-2024 budget to state lawmakers.
Many of the governor’s proposals placed focus on education and behavioral health issues. Some amendments also floated cutting $1 billion worth of taxes for Virginia residents.
However, two proposals in Youngkin’s budget plan are now stirring up debate among Virginia lawmakers.
Some politicians in the Commonwealth noticed Friday the governor’s list of amendments included a proposal to establish a 15-week gestation limitation for abortion. Another proposal says no expenditures from Virginia’s general or non-general fund sources could be used for appropriations to provide abortion services.
That same proposal would strike a state statute requirement that, Democrats believe, would essentially ban Medicaid funding for state residents who have pregnancies with incapacitating physical deformities or mental deficiencies.
The abortion proposals come after the Supreme Court decided to reverse its landmark Roe v. Wade decision in June.
At the time, Youngkin made public his intentions to fight for a 15-week abortion ban.
The governor said he requested Republican State Senators Siobhan Dunnavant and Steve Newman and Republican Delegates Kathy Byron and Margaret Ransone to bring Virginia lawmakers together to pass bipartisan abortion legislation.
On Friday, none of those four legislators responded to WUSA9’s request for comment on their efforts to fulfill Youngkin’s request.
Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, who also serves as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said she has yet to be contacted by the group either.
“I don't know of any Democrat that has been reached out to,” she said.
Youngkin’s abortion budget proposals have been largely panned by Virginia Democrats who have characterized them as too extreme.
But, a spokeswoman for Governor Youngkin, Macaulay Porter, said she believes Democrats are deliberately misleading Virginians.
“The Governor has said he wants to look for bipartisan consensus on a bill to protect life after 15 weeks, with exceptions in the case of rape, incest or life of the mother,” Porter said.
Some Youngkin critics have also taken issue with a planned $50,000 appropriation in the governor’s proposal that would be used to pay for operational costs to enforce a possible 15-week abortion plan.
Virginia Senator Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said on Twitter the money would essentially be used for prison funding “to jail women or doctors”.
Youngkin’s office pushed back on that claim.
“The Governor will not sign a bill that imprisons women, that’s pure political posturing,” Porter said. “There is a technical requirement to include any legislation that may expand a felony in the budget, even before it passes. And the democrats know this.”
Herring said the $50,000 allocation was adherent to the Virginia’s “Woodrum Amendment”. However, she said that also served as proof Youngkin is trying to make abortions a felony offense in the Commonwealth.
“The plan is to create a new crime,” she said. “There's no way ifs, ands, and buts. If he did, if he did not want it to be a felony, he wouldn't have had the Woodrum Amendment. He would’ve said, ‘you know what, those who violate this new law, that I'm going to introduce through a legislator, is committing a misdemeanor.”
Both Republicans and Democrats say they believe discussion during the upcoming session, which will begin in January, will heavily focus on abortion-related issues.
Republicans control the House and Executive Branch in Richmond. Democrats have a slim majority over the Senate.
Herring said she believes Virginia Senate Democrats will be able to show a united front against any Republican abortion proposals.
“I think it's possible,” she said. “I think with Senator Lucas, who chairs the committee that it would be going in front of, she's going to make sure that we'll be there to oppose the measure.”
Still, there is uncertainty in the Virginia Senate.
Morrissey, specifically, has been seen as a swing vote on abortion in the state.
Youngkin is not the only Republican who has voiced an interest in passing abortion legislation during the upcoming session.
Delegate Marie March, R-Floyd, pre-filed a bill in late November that calls for a total abortion ban.
“Provides that life begins at conception and each person is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Virginia, and the laws of the Commonwealth beginning at the moment of conception,” March’s bill summary reads. “The bill also repeals all provisions of the Code of Virginia allowing for the performance of abortions.”
March did not respond to a request for comment, Friday, regarding her legislation.