Virginia Voters Just Replaced an Anti-Abortion Man With a Pro-Abortion Woman in Critical Primary

Lashrecse Aird defeated the last anti-abortion Democrat, Joe Morrissey, in the Virginia Senate primary on Tuesday, delivering a big win for reproductive rights.

Virginia Voters Just Replaced an Anti-Abortion Man With a Pro-Abortion Woman in Critical Primary
State Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, left, and Lashrecse Aird hug after Aird’s victory speech during an election night party at the IBEW Local 666 in Highland Springs, Va., Tuesday, June 20, 2023. Photo:Nicolas Galindo/Richmond Times-Dispatch (AP)

One more anti-abortion politician will be kicked out of the legislature after Tuesday’s primary in Virginia. Lashrecse Aird beat Virginia’s lone anti-abortion state senator on Tuesday night, meaning the purple state’s Senate will have one more vote next year to protect against Republican abortion bans. “As we set our sights beyond our victory tonight, I’m ready to hit the ground running,” Aird said. “In Richmond, I’ll be a firewall for our reproductive rights in the face of Republican extremists who think they have the right to make decisions about our own bodies,” Aird told her supporters.

Aird defeating incumbent state Sen. Joe Morrissey—who is vocally anti-abortion and uses the rightwing misnomer “pro-life” to describe his politics—was critical in Virginia. In 2020 Morrissey was the only Senate Democrat to vote against the state’s Reproductive Health Protection Act. And this year, he was the only Senate Democrat who didn’t support the effort to bring a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights to the ballot box, an increasingly common way to get abortion rights codified at the state level.

In an interview with 19th News, Morrissey said abortion should be between the patients and doctors, but he does support restricting abortion due to fetal pain. (During the 2022 session, Morrissey was a cosponsor for legislation that would have outlawed most abortions after 20 weeks and was named using the rightwing anti-abortion jargon of “pain-capable unborn child” to talk about a fetus.) “I haven’t figured it out. I want to hear testimony about what the point is when a fetus feels pain,” Morrissey told the news outlet. “I want to find out what that period is.”

Virginia is one of the last strongholds for Southerners seeking abortion care—and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin previously said he would “happily and gleefully” sign anti-choice legislation into law. One of Youngkin’s biggest legislative priorities was passing a 15-week abortion ban. Ultimately it was unsuccessful.

As I’ve previously written, the map of abortion access across the South will make you nauseous, especially if you’re of reproductive age. There is basically no in-person access to abortion in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. South Carolina, Florida, and Virginia are the bright spots in the region. (North Carolina was on the list until State Rep. Tricia Cotham (R) left the Democratic Party to give the Republican legislature a veto-proof majority to pass abortion restrictions.)

Planned Parenthood applauded Aird’s focus on abortion rights in her race. (In the lead photo of this story, you can see one of her clever campaign signs, “Roe Not Joe,” referencing Morrissey.) “Aird was unapologetically pro-abortion rights and campaigned on stopping Gov. Youngkin from enacting an abortion ban in Virginia,” Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said in a statement. “The voters of SD-13 were loud and clear: They demand to be represented by an outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.”

Now, Aird will face Republican Eric Ditri in the November general election. Because of the district’s makeup, her victory is expected, but stranger things have happened than a Democrat losing. If Aird wins in November, it will mean Democrats can keep Virginia as a Southern state that supports abortion access.

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