Virginia Governor Tells Voters to Just Trust Him That GOP Won’t Pass a Total Abortion Ban

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has been working overtime to try and lull people into a false sense of security and get them to vote GOP ahead of Tuesday's elections.

Virginia Governor Tells Voters to Just Trust Him That GOP Won’t Pass a Total Abortion Ban
Photo:Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty (Getty Images)

While Abortion isn’t officially on the ballot in Tuesday’s elections in Virginia, it’s a proxy vote on reproductive rights. (The issue is literally on the ballot in Ohio, however.) Every seat in the state legislature is up and if Republicans flip the Senate and hold the House of Delegates, they will pass an abortion ban at 15 weeks, if not earlier in pregnancy. We know this because Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has vowed to make it so.

But he’s trying to wave away concerns that conservative lawmakers will go even further by, say, passing a bill at six weeks, which is before most people know they’re pregnant. It’s not hysterical to be worried about this prospect as Youngkin has been open about his desire to ban abortion, but he’s just saying things a little differently in an election year. Here’s what he said in the days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022: “Any bill that comes to my desk I will sign happily and gleefully in order to protect life.” Gleefully! During that same online forum, Youngkin said he believes life begins at conception.

And Youngkin has been working overtime to try to lull people into a false sense of security that their rights will be protected if they vote Republican. Even though a crop of recent stories that note a majority of Virginia Republicans in competitive districts want to ban abortion much earlier than 15 weeks. That list includes state Sen. Mark Peake (SD-8), John Stirrup (candidate for HD-21), Del. Emily Brewer (candidate for SD-17), Del. Tara Durant (candidate for SD-27), and Sen. Dave Suetterlein (candidate for SD-4). Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC also spent $1.4 million on an ad that claims it’s “disinformation” to say Republicans support a ban because the proposed 15-week abortion ban is actually “a reasonable 15-week limit.”

Now, in the election’s final days, Youngkin is once again trying to allay people’s fears.

In a new story in the Wall Street Journal, reporter Molly Ball writes that Youngkin “hopes that taking a clear and arguably moderate position will reassure voters that electing a GOP-controlled legislature wouldn’t lead to the six-week or total bans that many red states have adopted.” (Note: no abortion ban is moderate, but this is the WSJ we’re talking about.)

It’s apparent that Ball tried to press him on what he’d do if lawmakers passed an even more restrictive bill—but it’s unclear how hard she pressed. She wrote that Youngkin “said questions about whether he would sign further limits were irrelevant because legislative leaders have promised not to send them to his desk.” Oh, the leaders pinky-promised not to? Say no more, Glenn!

Youngkin continues to deflect on this topic to try to appear like a reasonable consensus-builder, but the fact is that the vast majority of Virginians don’t support his anti-abortion push. Multiple polls show that three-quarters of Virginians either want the state’s abortion laws to stay the same or become less restrictive. (Abortion is currently legal through the end of the second trimester and after that, if the pregnant person’s life or health is in danger.) In the surveys from April and October, a small minority wanted stricter abortion laws: 17% and 24%, respectively.

But who can be bothered to worry about popular opinion when you have a gerrymandered legislature to exploit and presidential ambitions to nurture? (Still, not everyone thinks he can pull this off. Per the WSJ: “One Youngkin adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted a ‘massacre,’ saying the state’s center-left orientation and views on abortion would be too much for Youngkin to overcome.”)

Youngkin was slick enough to win in Virginia in 2021 after Joe Biden carried the state by more than 10 points. U.S. Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D), who served as a member of the state Senate, urged voters not to fall for his smooth talking this time. McClellan told the WSJ that Republicans “have been caught saying they want a ban, and this is the first step to getting it.”

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