December 6, 2023

On this 12 months’s battle for majority management of the Normal Meeting, abortion emerged as a key problem and a bright-line distinction between Republican and Democratic candidates for the Virginia Home and Senate. By electing Democratic majorities in each chambers, voters within the commonwealth informed lawmakers that they wished reproductive rights within the commonwealth to be protected.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, whose Spirit of Virginia PAC donated hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to GOP candidates and supporting organizations, made it clear that his get together deliberate to implement a 15-week abortion ban in Virginia. Democratic victories put this objective out of attain for Republicans, and the commonwealth will stay the final state within the South the place reproductive rights are protected after the US Supreme Courtroom struck down Roe v. Wade final 12 months.

Now that Virginians’ reproductive freedoms are not underneath rapid menace, the incoming Democratic majorities within the Normal Meeting are indicating that they plan to take steps to forestall them from future threats.

Whereas Youngkin’s veto pen will forestall Democrats from passing new legal guidelines increasing abortion protections for the following two years, a distinct, if more difficult, path to defending these freedoms does exist: particularly, amending the state structure.

“For the reason that election has been over, I’m listening to from much more folks,” Senator-elect Schuyler VanValkenburg stated at a press convention just lately. “I’m hopeful that transferring ahead we might be constructive and put these protections within the structure, as a result of that’s the place it belongs.”

This new manner of taking part in offense on reproductive rights doesn’t contain the governor, and Democrats don’t want large supermajorities to perform it. They’ll, nevertheless, want persistence and the assistance of Virginia voters.

The method for amending Virginia’s structure is a multi-year one. Particularly, any proposed modification should move each chambers of the legislature in two consecutive years, however these years will need to have a state (odd-year) election in between. Then, the modification would seem on the poll within the subsequent election, and voters must approve it. If the proposed modification is ratified on the poll field, then it turns into part of Virginia’s structure.

Functionally, which means the Democratic majorities within the Home and Senate must move a constitutional modification defending abortion within the 2025 Normal Meeting session and once more within the 2026 session. Solely then would the modification seem on the 2026 poll.

Clearly, absent a dramatic change in Republicans’ place on reproductive rights within the interim, Democrats must maintain their majority within the Home of Delegates within the 2025 elections for this plan to succeed (the Senate received’t be on the poll once more till 2027).

Democrats tried to begin the method of approving a state constitutional modification defending reproductive rights on this 12 months’s legislative session. It handed the Democratic-majority Senate however went on to die in a GOP-controlled Home committee.

Since Virginia’s present structure was adopted in 1971, the Normal Meeting has tried to amend it 62 occasions; voters have permitted 54 of these amendments. The most up-to-date amendments have been ratified in 2020. One in every of these established Virginia’s bipartisan redistricting fee, and the opposite exempted autos owned by disabled veterans from property taxes.

Within the meantime, the Democratic majorities within the Normal Meeting will seemingly try to guard or increase reproductive rights legislatively within the 2024 session. However Youngkin’s strident opposition to abortion all however ensures vetoes of any payments on this vein that Democrats are capable of move, so Virginians mustn’t count on any significant modifications both increasing or limiting reproductive rights within the close to future.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood’s chief political correspondent. She can be the nation’s foremost skilled in state politics with nearly 20 years of expertise in statehouse machinations, and her comedian e book assortment might be greater than yours.

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