After Senate Committee rams through Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia considers the future

ALEXANDRIA, VA Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans today violated their own rules and forged ahead with a vote on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. This comes after a week of committee hearings where Barrett refused to answer how she would rule on abortion, the Affordable Care Act, and even birth control. She refused to answer questions on whether states could make accessing abortion care a felony if Roe v. Wade is overturned or if people seeking abortion care could be punished with the death penalty and whether states could prosecute people for using contraception. 

There is no doubt that the right to abortion is hanging by a thread in this country. If Barrett is confirmed, her presence on the bench will create an anti-reproductive freedom supermajority that will threaten our fundamental rights for decades to come. 

The advancement of Barrett forces us to consider the landscape here in Virginia if our worst fears are actualized. Fortunately, Virginia does not have a “trigger law” or a pre-Roe abortion ban that would automatically criminalize abortion if Roe is overturned or gutted by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the passage earlier of the Reproductive Health Protection Act this year, which went into effect this July, removed some of the worst medically unnecessary barriers to abortion access in the Virginia Code, placing reproductive healthcare back in the hands of patients and not politicians.

However, Virginia does not have affirmative constitutional or statutory protections safeguarding the right to access abortion. If Roe falls, and the political tides change, there is no guarantee that abortion access in Virginia will be protected. Furthermore, even with a pro-choice legislature and the lessening of abortion access restrictions,  not everyone can access the right to abortion care in Virginia: 80% of Virginia patients live in counties without an abortion provider. 

“Seven in 10 Virginians support Roe and the right to abortion. But, Republicans are conducting a sham nomination process to ramrod Judge Amy Coney Barrett onto the bench for a lifetime appointment who is in direct opposition to the will of the majority of the Commonwealth and Americans at large. Not only is it clear that we must do everything possible to block this nomination before the full Senate vote already scheduled for next Monday, but also we must take it upon ourselves to continue the fight for the rights and freedoms the late Justice Ginsburg championed,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s executive director, Tarina Keene. “If our worst fears are realized and Roe falls, Virginia is in a good position to become the beacon for protecting individual liberty and a safe haven for abortion in the South. Now is the time for Virginians to take control of our fate. We can make abortion care and all reproductive healthcare more accessible for all in the Commonwealth by codifying bodily autonomy for each and every Virginian, but we must act quickly.”  

The last few months have shown us all the power of activism in calling out injustice. This fight over the future of the Court has tapped into the energy, anger, and passion in the progressive movement. If Republicans succeed in ramming through another Trump justice, Virginia voters—including NARAL Virginia members—will not forget; we are actively recruiting activists for our Legislative Rapid Response Team to fight for pro-choice legislative advances and against extremist, dangerous attacks. Should Roe fall and abortion access dwindles in the states surrounding us, Virginia must be a refuge for those who need safe, legal, and affordable care. This means protecting and expanding access to abortion care and the full array of reproductive healthcare to ensure the Commonwealth becomes the safe haven of the South. We and our 22,000 members are already hard at work–today, tomorrow, at the ballot box, and beyond. 

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NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia is the policy and political leader of the reproductive freedom movement in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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