After narrowly securing both the state House and Senate, Virginia Democrats are looking to codify the “right” to abortion in the state Constitution.
Virginia Democrats pre-filed the proposal to be offered on January 10, 2024, after their election victories on Nov. 7. The language of the proposal would establish a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” It reads:
That every individual has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom. This right to make and effectuate one’s own decisions about all matters related to one’s pregnancy shall not be denied, burdened, or infringed upon, unless justified by a compelling state interest and achieved by the least restrictive means that do not infringe an individual’s autonomous decision-making. A state interest is compelling only when it is to ensure the protection of the health of an individual seeking care, consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine. The Commonwealth shall not discriminate in the protection or enforcement of this fundamental right.
That, except when justified by a compelling state interest, the Commonwealth shall not penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action against an individual on the basis of an actual, potential, perceived, or alleged outcome of such individual’s pregnancy, nor shall the Commonwealth penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action against an individual who aids or assists another individual, with such individual’s voluntary consent, in the exercise of such individual’s right to reproductive freedom.
While proposed constitutional amendments do not require a governor’s signature in the state, the resolution must pass both legislative chambers in two sessions over at least two years before it is put before the public for a vote. That means the earliest the resolution could appear on a Virginia ballot is November of 2026.
Abortion is currently legal in Virginia through 26 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion is also legal after that point to save the life or health of the mother. Virginia is notably the only southern-most state that has not passed a significant restriction on abortion since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.
Both parties in Virginia heavily campaigned on different abortion strategies, with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin pushing for a 15-week abortion restriction, when unborn babies are believed to be capable of feeling pain. Democrats, looking back on the 2022 midterms and the success of abortion ballot measures across the country, worked to frame the Virginia elections as the next referendum on “abortion rights.” Notably, abortion was been mentioned in 42 percent of ads aired by Democrat candidates through October 17, compared to just three percent aired by Republican candidates, according to AdImpact.
Activists and lawmakers in at least nine other states are pursuing abortion ballot measures, most of them ahead of the 2024 election. The list has continued to grow, with activists in other states like Montana and Arkansas hoping to put similar measures in front of voters next year.
Pro-abortion organizations and activists, typically backed by the affiliates of large left-wing organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, have stealthily turned to ballot measures in the hopes of shoring up and even growing the abortion complex in the shift from federal to state power since the overturning of Roe.
And so far, their plan is working — every single abortion-related ballot measure since the fall of Roe has been successful. During the 2022 special elections, Kansans rejected a ballot measure that would have established that the state Constitution does not include a right to abortion. During the 2022 midterms, voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont codified abortion into their Constitutions. At the same time, voters in Montana rejected a ballot measure that would have given rights to babies born alive in botched abortions. Voters in Kentucky also rejected an amendment similar to the one in Kansas. On November 7, Ohioans also voted to codify the supposed “right” to abortion in their state Constitutions via Issue 1.
Ballot measures are particularly effective as an offensive weapon because they are basically irreversible: they change a state constitution, take precedence over laws passed by state legislatures, and can only be overturned by another ballot measure.
These measures are often propped up by national left-wing organizations with deep pockets, out-of-state dark money groups, and billionaires with eugenicist leanings, oftentimes outspending pro-life organizations by double or triple.
Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.