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Virginia Vote Shows the Failure of the Abortion ‘Compromise’

A purported ‘compromise’ on the politically volatile issue failed spectacularly in Virginia, where Democrats held the state Senate and flipped the House.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin answers questions from members of the media while campaigning at Haymarket Elementary School, Nov. 7, 2023, in Haymarket, Va.(WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin had a plan to save his Republican colleagues from the same fate suffered by anti-abortion GOP candidates since the Supreme Court took away the guaranteed right to an abortion: He proposed what he called a “compromise” on the politically volatile issue, a 15-week ban Youngkin said would isolate “extremist” Democrats and give Republicans full control in Virginia government.

It failed spectacularly, with Democrats keeping control of the state Senate and flipping the Virginia House of Delegates, according to projections by the Associated Press early Wednesday morning.

Despite a massive and pricey Republican early voting push spearheaded by Youngkin – and new state legislative district lines that made some districts far more challenging for some Democratic candidates – Democrats will have at least single-seat majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

With votes still to be counted, Democrats had secured at least 21 seats in the 40-member state Senate and at least 51 seats in the 100-member House of Delegates, according to results posted as of Wednesday morning.

Republicans were leading narrowly in many of the outstanding races, but those races hinge on mail-in votes and provisional votes, which tend to heavily favor Democrats, according to Virginia political experts. Those votes will not be fully counted until next week.

The wins mean Virginia will remain the last Southern state where abortion is mostly legal. And it is a sign that Republicans are still struggling to control the electoral impact of a Supreme Court decision they fought for decades to achieve.

“The GOP lied at every turn. They called their plan to ban abortion in Virginia a plan to keep abortion legal in the state and claimed it was just a ‘limit.’ Well, tonight, Virginians showed the GOP and Glenn Youngkin exactly what voters have to say about it: We don’t want abortion bans, and we don’t want leaders who do,” Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All, said in a statement after Democrats had secured control of both chambers of Virginia state government.

The stunning Virginia results “serve as a warning sign for the GOP heading into 2024,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement. “While GOP candidates rallied around protecting babies from painful late-term abortions beginning at 15 weeks, they allowed Democrats to dominate the abortion narrative on the airwaves and sow confusion with voters. Last night proved this is not a formula for success for the GOP,” she added.

More than a year after the high court reversed Roe v. Wade, abortion remained a driving force in Tuesday night’s elections – especially notable in an off-year election with no regular federal offices on the ballot to drive turnout.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion until “viability,” generally defined at 22-24 weeks. A patient could get an abortion after that if the life or health of the pregnant woman or girl is imperiled.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Judge Daniel McCaffery won a seat on the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court in a race where abortion rights was a central issue. His election means Democrats will have a 5-2 majority on the state’s highest court.

In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection easily in the deep red state after a campaign that cast his opponent, Republican Daniel Cameron, as an extreme anti-abortion candidate. Only later in the campaign did Cameron amend his position to approve of abortion in cases of rape or incest – and it was not enough to sway voters.

“My biggest takeaway from tonight: in ’22 abortion rights had the biggest impact where it was literally on the ballot, less so when trying to draw the connection in candidate races,” Tom Bonier, senior adviser for the elections data company TargetSmart, said on social media after the election results.

“That has changed. Voters clearly made the connection that voting for GOP candidates = abortion bans.”

Youngkin, who is widely believed to have presidential ambitions, sought to thread the needle on the polarizing issue of abortion. While he had long described himself as “pro-life,” he later settled on a ban on abortion after 15 weeks (with exceptions thereafter), casting it as a template for Republican candidates across the nation.

“I think this is one where Virginians come together around reasonableness. And it then allows us to move onto really important topics,” Youngkin said on ABC’s “This Week” days before the election.

That didn’t work on Virginia voters and calls into question whether such “compromises” will help Republicans going into the critical 2024 elections. It also takes the steam out of the political march of Youngkin, who has been considered a potential presidential contender since winning the governorship in swing-state Virginia in 2021.

Dave Rexrode, a senior adviser to Youngkin, said the campaign was “still monitoring a couple key races and will fully assess where things stand” as results trickled in. “We had hoped for a stronger outcome this evening but are proud of the effort all of our candidates put into these extremely competitive districts,” Rexrode said on social media.

Source: US News