Current Abortion Legislation

Current Abortion Legislation
Credit: Feministing


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 find 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”).

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


Virginia General Assembly

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


Steve Newman (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

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

House Committees

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

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.


Virginia News

Silent no more: Why women in the Shenandoah Valley are talking about abortion

By Lauren Peters

Staunton News Leader- May 30, 2019

1,151 women from Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro had abortions between 2009 and 2017. That averages out to more than 100 a year. One every three days.

There’s no clinic or hospital that provides abortions in the Shenandoah Valley. These women had to travel at least 40 miles one way from Staunton to find one. Because Virginia law requires a 24-hour waiting period after a mandatory ultrasound, the trip had to be made twice. Some traveled hundreds of miles, statistics from the Virginia Department of Health show.

This does not include those who ventured outside of the Commonwealth. Maryland has no 24-hour waiting period and has long been considered an option for women in Virginia seeking abortions without the restrictions to access.


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