Gov. Glenn Youngkin attended Virginia’s fourth March for Life, an annual anti-abortion event held outside the Capitol, on April 27, 2022. (Kate Masters/ Virginia Mercury)
Abortion rights supporters are on high alert, but Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office says it’s not planning to introduce any abortion-related legislation when the General Assembly returns to Richmond next week.
The special session set for Wednesday is technically a continuation of the same session that ended June 30. The main item of business is expected to be the selection of a new judge for the State Corporation Commission, which regulates public utilities, banking, insurance and telecommunications.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision earlier this summer, Youngkin said he was convening a panel of Republican legislators to draft an abortion bill to be taken up “when the General Assembly returns in January.”
When asked if the governor intends to send down a bill for the special session, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter reiterated that timeline and said the administration has “no plans at this time” to do anything on abortion in September. The governor has previously said he would support banning most abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.
The procedural resolution laying out the rules for the special session prohibits senators and delegates from introducing new legislation unrelated to the budget or the election of judges. In June, Democrats in the House of Delegates tried to amend the resolution to take up a pro-abortion access measure, but Republicans voted down that effort.
Garren Shipley, a spokesman for House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said the House has received no new legislation from the governor.
“Were any legislation to come down from the governor it would require us to be in session for three days unless there were 80 votes to waive constitutional readings,” Shipley said. “Our plan is to be in session for one day only.”
House Republicans have a 52-48 majority, far short of the number required to waive legislative rules, skip the committee process and force a same-day vote on a surprise bill. Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate and have promised to block any new abortion restrictions. Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, has described himself as pro-life, but it’s unclear if he’d break with his party on a major abortion vote.
Abortion rights groups are trying to rally their supporters to make a show of force in Richmond while lawmakers are in town. In an emailed invitation urging supporters to attend a pre-session rally at the state Capitol next Wednesday, the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women said it’s expecting an abortion bill.
“Red Alert: be prepared for danger,” the group’s email said.
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