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Virginia's abortion providers see influx of patients as neighboring states enforce bans

Virginia is one of the only remaining Southern states to offer abortion access up to 26 weeks in pregnancy. Could lawmakers pass a ban?

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia is poised to become the only state in the region to allow abortion at 26 weeks into a pregnancy.

Several Southern states have tightened their abortion restrictions within the past year, after the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022. In North Carolina, abortion is legal up to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In South Carolina, a judge halted a new law banning most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy, according to the Associated Press.

RELATED: Where abortion laws stand in every state a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe 

Rae Ann Pickett with Planned Parenthood said the organization has seen an untold amount of women entering Virginia to access their services.

"We see patients who are driving from places like Georgia and Mississippi to Virginia," Pickett said. "They're driving all night long, getting their procedure, and driving back."

Abortion providers in Virginia feel the strain

The influx of patients is putting pressure on in-state providers who have already felt the strain. Wait times to set an appointment can be longer, and the pool of qualified healthcare professionals is getting slimmer.

Pickett said they try to limit any negative impacts on those that utilize their services, but sometimes it can be unavoidable as more people flood into Virginia.

"Each state that is passing that sort of restrictive legislation acknowledges that there will be repercussions with other states in the region and they do not care," Pickett said.

With thousands of women entering the state, it has also put a strain on abortion funds set aside to help women who cannot afford to get the procedure done.

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Organizers with Hampton Roads Reproductive Justice League said they have received solidarity requests for help reaching up to $26,000.

"It's so much more than just the price of the abortion now, it's everything that comes with it," Ammie Pascua said. "It's the travel fare, the hotel, the childcare, the gas."

The Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project helped Pascua pay for her own abortion.

After her experience, she joined the Hampton Roads Reproductive Justice League. She said she knows all too well how overwhelming the experience can be. 

"You can just feel so alone, if there is no one there to help you, it's beyond isolating," Pascua said. "I don't want any person to feel that way."

Could Virginia lawmakers pass an abortion ban?

In Virginia, those seeking an abortion can get one up to 26 weeks into their pregnancy. A doctor can also perform an abortion in the third trimester if the life of the mother is at risk.

This could change in the future, as some Virginia legislators have indicated their support for a 15-week ban. In January, Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly blocked this ban proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

RELATED: Democrats in the Virginia Senate defeat bills limiting abortion access

Pickett said if an abortion ban comes to Virginia, it will only continue a ripple effect the state has seen by pushing it onto other neighboring states.

"I am concerned that folks will think 'there's no way this could happen here, and I'm really concerned that folks will wake up one day to an abortion ban that is extreme in this state," Pickett said. "It is absolutely possible."

The governor has gone on the record to state that he will sign any anti-abortion legislation that does cross his desk.

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