Bodily Autonomy

Restricting Women’s Bodily Autonomy is a Legislative Priority for Republicans in 2023

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The Republicans’ march against women’s bodily autonomy continues despite the backlash, and it does not look like they will be slowing down any time soon. On the contrary, this is a legislative priority for 2023 for Republicans.

In Virginia, the Republicans have made it quite clear that they will continue to pursue their agenda of eliminating reproductive rights for women. During the State of the Commonwealth address in the Virginia House of Delegates, Gov. Glenn Youngkin reasserted his anti-abortion rights agenda.

The speech was made with a sense of urgency, as Gov. Youngkin is adamant about imposing a ban on abortions 15 weeks after pregnancy. The governor has made his intentions clear, that he would “gleefully” sign “any bill [to protect life] that comes” to him. These comments came shortly after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. The governor personally believes that life begins at conception.

The governor is backed by like-minded legislators in the house, which makes his claims more than just empty threats. Two Republicans have already submitted similar bills in both houses, making it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion on women who are pregnant for 15 weeks or more. The chances of this bill’s success are limited because the Democrats control the Senate, reported Dogwood, a Courier Newsroom publication.

The bill in the House of Delegates has been introduced by Republican Del. Marie March. The bill, House Bill 1395, would establish law at conception, which would make it extremely difficult for women to access birth control.

These bills have been criticized for their incorrectness because they deprive people of agency over their bodies according to Jamie Lockhart, the Exec Director at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “Not only would these ‘life begins at conception’ bills ban abortion, but they also have implications for contraception, especially emergency contraception and in vitro fertilization,” she said.

A professor of law at Northern Kentucky University, Judith Darr, has expressed similar concern, in particular, she cited concern over the implications such a bill would have for IVF practices. This is because such a law would classify frozen embryos as human life, and thus would impose limitations on discarding it or genetically modifying it.

Another bill, House Bill 1488, has been introduced by Republican Del. John McGuire. If this bill becomes law, then state-funded abortion in cases of rape, incest, or physical deformities will not be possible. According to Dogwood, a Courier Newsroom publication, another bill introduced by Republican Del. Nicholas Freitas mandates medical care for aborted babies in case they survive the abortion procedure.

To counter the efforts of Republicans, the Democrats have vowed to enshrine the right to abortion in Virginia’s constitution. Lockhart’s organization, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, has been working towards the actualization of this goal for a long time.

On Jan. 26, her organization will be organizing a Lobby Day at the State Capital, to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health among legislators. “I think that’s a great way to get involved and show the power of our movement,” she told Dogwood, a Courier Newsroom publication.

On Jan. 23, Hampton Roads Reproductive Justice League, The Latina Institute VA, the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance, and the REPRO Rising Virginia will be organizing a REPRO Advocacy Day, in a bid to lobby for reproductive rights.

“Republicans and Gov. Youngkin are trying to say that this 15-week abortion ban is in some way a compromise,” Lockhart said. “In fact, all abortion bans are extreme because they take away the power of people to make their own health care decisions. We know that the real goal…is to completely ban abortion.”

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