Virginia Democrats look to amend state constitution, establish right to ‘reproductive freedom’

Virginia Democrats are looking to establish a right to “reproductive freedom” in a constitutional amendment as the party sets out its priorities heading into 2024 after it captured complete control of the state Legislature in this month’s elections.

The resolution aims to amend the state constitution to say that “every individual has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom. This right to make and effectuate one’s own decisions about all matters related to one’s pregnancy shall not be denied, burdened, or infringed upon, unless justified by a compelling state interest and achieved by the least restrictive means that do not infringe an individual’s autonomous decision-making.”

The amendment seeks to ban the state from punishing people based on the “outcome of such individual’s pregnancy” unless “when justified by a compelling state interest.” It would also ban the state from punishing those helping someone exercise their reproductive rights.

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The constitutional amendment notably does not include the word “abortion.”

Abortion is currently legal in the commonwealth through 26 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in the third trimester. Democrats largely campaigned on the issue of abortion during the Virginia state Legislature elections, while Republicans leaned into crime.

Democrats ended up taking the House of Delegates, while holding onto the state Senate.

Majorities in both the House of Delegates and state Senate must pass the resolution first; after the next House of Delegates elections occurs, both chambers need majorities to pass it again before voters ultimately weigh in on it.

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