Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, listens as state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, speaks in support of a proposed state constitutional amendment to protect reproductive freedom during a press conference in the Pocahontas Building Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Virginia Democrats blocked legislation supported by Gov. Glenn Youngkin restricting abortion access today. (Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

By Sarah Rankin, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Senate Democrats defeated several bills Thursday that would have restricted abortion access in the state, including a proposed 15-week ban with exceptions that was a priority for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

The Senate Committee on Education and Health voted the measures down on a party-line basis without debate after a subcommittee had previously recommended that they be defeated.

Thursday’s votes were not a surprise. Democrats who control the state Senate have promised since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year to defeat any effort to curtail abortion access, including a push by Youngkin and fellow Republican lawmakers to enact a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Youngkin’s spokeswoman, Macaulay Porter, said Senate Democrats had “solidified their extreme position.”

Porter said Democrats were acting against the will of Virginians who want “a reasonable compromise on abortion” in “advocating for abortion anytime and anywhere.”

Several bills that would restrict or ban abortions have been filed this year in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. But they have not yet begun to advance. Anything that clears the House is likely to meet the same fate as Thursday’s bills once it crosses to the Senate.

Virginia Democrats, at the time in full control of state government, expanded abortion access and eased certain clinic restrictions in 2020, pledging to make the state a “safe haven” in the South.

The law currently allows abortion during the first and second trimesters. Abortions are only allowed during the third trimester if multiple physicians certify that the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to “substantially and irremediably” impair the mental or physical health of the mother or result in her death.

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