In a tightly fought battle for the Virginia governor’s seat, Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin was notably cautious on the campaign trail when it came to speaking up against abortion. He was hesitant to make it a focal point of his campaign and for good reason. The state has not elected a Republican to the top seat in 12 years and President Biden carried the state during the presidential election. If Youngkin were to become the first Republican Virginia governor in over a decade, he would have to do it by getting the independent voters. In order to get the independent voters, he would have to tread very thinly when it came to abortion – and he did.
Youngkin was successful at targeting the campaign on the primary issue for parents: education and critical race theory in schools. The topic and push for CRT in the schools, among other controversial issues regarding education, rallied parents to push back against Democrats. The resistance toward CRT and educational measures being promoted in the state led Youngkin to a victory. But now that a Republican had gained victory in the governor’s race, where would that lead pro-life advocates and the unborn?
Youngkin consistently spoke about “going on offense” when he was governor and if he had the majority in the House. It is unclear at this time what “going on offense” looks like with Youngkin, as he has regularly said he would not support the same type of ban implemented in Texas on abortions. He has also said he supported exceptions to abortion bans and restrictions in the cases of rape or incest.
The good news is Youngkin has said he would support legislation referred to as “fetal pain” legislation. The “fetal pain” legislation, first passed by the state of Nebraska with eight additional states following in Nebraska’s footsteps, bans abortion after 20 weeks because it asserts that once this milestone is reached then the unborn child can feel pain and, as a result, abortion is banned. If Youngkin were to “go on the offense” and make moves to restrict abortion, even at 20 weeks, that would save countless lives since the state’s current law allows abortion up to the second trimester of pregnancy. The state’s current law, 18.2-74, reads:
“it shall be lawful for any physician licensed by the Board of Medicine to practice medicine and surgery to terminate or attempt to terminate a human pregnancy or aid or assist in the termination of a human pregnancy by performing an abortion or causing a miscarriage on any woman in a state of pregnancy subsequent to the second trimester provided the following conditions are met:
(a) Said operation is performed in a hospital licensed by the Virginia State Department of Health or operated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
(b) The physician and two consulting physicians certify and so enter in the hospital record of the woman, that in their medical opinion, based upon their best clinical judgment, the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.
(c) Measures for life support for the product of such abortion or miscarriage must be available and utilized if there is any clear visible evidence of viability.”
In addition to 18.2-74, Virginia former governor Ralph Northam signed SB1276/HB1896 that enabled state health insurance plans to cover the cost of abortions, which was previously prevented by a state abortion coverage ban (with very few exceptions).
Despite the victory Republicans, conservatives, and pro-life supporters gained in this week’s Youngkin victory, the battle for rights for the unborn in Virginia is not over. It is crucial that Catholics pray for governor elect Youngkin and that he use his position to protect the unborn. It is unclear, at this point based on his campaign trail statements, if he is fully prepared yet to go against most Virginia voters and tackle abortion rights and providers.
Until then, we should increase our prayers for him, for Virginia, for expectant mothers in that state, and for the unborn. His victory brings good news and hope for the unborn in Virginia – but not totally.