Justin Fairfax Casts Tie-Breaking Vote to Liberalize Virginia’s Abortion Law

POLITICS & POLICY
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

On Wednesday, after the Virginia Senate deadlocked 20-20 on a bill repealing several modest abortion restrictions in the state, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax cast a tie-breaking vote to pass the legislation.

Senate Bill 733 would remove Virginia’s requirement that only doctors may perform abortion in order to allow physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to perform abortions. The bill would also repeal the section of Virginia law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to receive the following information 24 hours before an abortion: 

  1. A full, reasonable and comprehensible medical explanation of the nature, benefits, and risks of and alternatives to the proposed procedures or protocols to be followed in her particular case;

  2. An instruction that the woman may withdraw her consent at any time prior to the performance of the procedure;

  3. An offer for the woman to speak with the physician who is to perform the abortion so that he may answer any questions that the woman may have and provide further information concerning the procedures and protocols;

  4. A statement of the probable gestational age of the fetus at the time the abortion is to be performed and that fetal ultrasound imaging shall be performed prior to the abortion to confirm the gestational age

The bill retains Virginia’s requirement that an abortionist obtain the “informed written consent of the pregnant woman” seeking an abortion, but it repeals the requirement to perform an ultrasound and offer the woman an opportunity to see the ultrasound.

Senate Bill 733 also lowers the medical standards for abortionists: Facilities that “perform five or more first trimester abortions per month” will no longer be classified “as hospitals for the purpose of complying with regulations establishing minimum standards for hospitals.”

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A similar bill passed the Virginia House of Delegates, and the legislation will likely be signed into law by Virginia’s Democratic governor Ralph Northam, who came under fire last year for comments about leaving infants born alive after attempted third-trimester abortions to die. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax faced calls to resign after two women publicly stepped forward in 2019 to accuse him of rape; he denies both allegations and has sued CBS News for airing a report and interviews of his two accusers.

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