'Elated' and 'devastated': Virginia lawmakers react to Supreme Court 'Roe' reversal

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Virginia lawmakers and politicians took to the airwaves and social media Friday to voice their opinions about the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling to reverse the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision and put the question of abortion rights back before state legislatures. As expected, the ruling curried favor among conservatives, and anger among moderates and liberals.

Virginia law currently recognizes the right to have an abortion. But with Republicans controlling all three statewide elected offices and the House of Delegates − not to mention they are within striking distance of regaining the state Senate − legislative challenges to that law are anticipated to pick up strength as the 2023 General Assembly draws closer.

Freshman GOP Del. Kim Taylor of Dinwiddie County issued a statement recognizing the battles that could be looming, but she made it clear where she stands on the issue.

"The decisions that will be made are no simple task, and I fully understand the burden that comes with this ruling," Taylor said. "As a mother, my daughter is my greatest gift. Given this fact, I will always be a strong supporterof life."

Within hours of the ruling's announcement, GOP state Sen. Travis Hackworth of Tazewell County said he plans to introduce legislation in 2023 that will protect unborn lives from the moment of conception.

"No society can be deemed civil when it murders and discards its babies because they are deemed inconvenient," Hackworth said in a statement announcing his plan.

State Sen. Amanda Chase of Chesterfield County, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year, said she "unapologetically" runs on a pro-life platform.

"For over 50 years, the unborn have had no due process," Chase said in a Facebook video. "This decision has never been made and should have never been made by the Supreme Court but now rightfully, that decision has been overturned and given back to the states."

Chase, who previously tried and failed to get pro-life bills such as unborn lives beginning at heartbeat, said she looks forward "to being on the right side of history" in January when the legislature takes up the issue.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Friday he has asked four GOP state lawmakers to start work on coming up with consensus legislation in January to address abortion rights.

"I'm proud to be a pro-life governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life," Youngkin said in a statement. "The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions."

On the other side of the aisle, Virginia Democrats struck back hard at the ruling.

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond, who has advocated for advancing abortion rights in Virginia, said she was "devastated" to hear about the ruling. She also vowed to continue the fight to protect those rights already in place.

"As other states face restrictions, Virginia will remain a safe haven for abortion care," McClellan said. "We welcome everyone to make their reproductive health decisions free of government interference."

Sen. Joe Morrissey of Richmond, who many have perceived as a possible swing vote on the abortion issue because of his personal opposition to the procedure, reiterated that while despite his belief, he still defends the position "that women should have safe access to the procedure, at the very least, up to the moment a fetus can feel pain which many agree is 20 plus weeks of a pregnancy; in cases when a mother’s health or life is at risk; in cases of rape that result in a pregnancy; and in cases of incest that result in a pregnancy."

"Currently, Democrats control the state Senate which means that it is highly unlikely that our abortion laws will change come January, 2023, when the next General Assembly Session begins," Morrissey added.

In Washington, some of Virginia's congressional delegation also reacted as expected to the decision.

Republican Rep. Ben Cline issued a short tweet: "Today, #LifeWins," he said.

Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia, called the ruling "a devastating and unacceptable attack" on constitutional rights.

"This decision is one of the greatest rollbacks of rights in recent times and represents the first time our daughters will have less rights than their mothers," said McEachin, whose district stretches from Richmond south to the North Carolina state line. "These restrictions will also disproportionately impact low-income Americans and people of color and cause severe socioeconomic impacts on the most vulnerable among us."

McEachin's district includes the cities of Petersburg and Emporia, long considered among the most fiscally challenged localities in Virginia. Petersburg also has been ranked over the past 10 years as the unhealthiest among all 133 state cities and counties.

This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: VA political reactions to 'Roe' vote range from elation to devastation