Wednesday, February 1, 2023


Democrats in the Virginia State Capitol pay plenty of lip service to democracy. Yet it was the majority-Democrat Senate Education and Health Committee that ignored the consensus of Virginians when they blocked legislation to protect unborn children and their mothers from the brutality of abortion at 15 weeks — a point when science shows children in the womb can feel pain.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin called out opponents of the bill, saying, “I believe they’re way out of touch, and there’s still a path forward in the House. I sure hope they start listening to the folks that elected them to come represent them.”

Mr. Youngkin is right. Virginians have every reason to be appalled, especially by the behavior of Democrat lawmakers who celebrated with photos of themselves symbolically stuffing this compassionate legislation in the trash. Wherever you stand, this subject is serious.

Recent polling confirms that Virginians strongly favor protections for the unborn at 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. That includes 64% of Independents, 55% of rank-and-file Democrats, and 56% of women. Even 60% of likely pro-choice voters agree.

This puts our commonwealth in good company with virtually the entire modern world. Forty-seven out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion at 15 weeks or earlier — most around 12 weeks. Even left-leaning Finland and Germany place at least some limits on abortion after 12 weeks, similar to what Americans consistently say they want.

Almost two-thirds of Virginia voters, meanwhile, oppose allowing abortion on demand up to the moment of birth — a “right” Democrats are proposing to enshrine permanently in law by amending the state constitution.

Policies so radical only exist in a small handful of countries, like North Korea and China, nations with atrocious human rights records — and, tragically, in about half the United States today, where pro-abortion Democrats are in charge. Clearly, it is they who are extreme on this issue.

Limiting painful abortions at 15 weeks is a policy grounded in science. By 15 weeks, the child’s heart has beat more than 15 million times, just as each of ours will beat billions of times during our lives. He or she has been practicing breathing for up to six weeks. Pain receptors started developing about two months earlier, and brain structures at this time indicate that the child can process pain. Indeed, the pain they feel during an abortion is likely excruciating.

Our laws should reflect the science — not deny it and callously disregard immense human suffering. Protecting unborn children at 15 weeks is common sense. It is not the end of the discussion about when we become human beings deserving of protection. However, this legislation reflects where most Virginians stand, in contrast to the Democratic Party agenda of imposing unlimited abortion throughout pregnancy everywhere in America.

Now that the people and their elected leaders at every level are free to protect unborn children and mothers in the law, thanks to the Dobbs decision, 15 states have protective laws in effect that could save 125,000 lives a year. In the commonwealth, as many as 500 lives a year could be saved by limiting abortions when unborn babies feel pain.

Pro-abortion Democratic lobbying groups have already announced plans to spend six figures spreading falsehoods about this humane legislation. Voters deserve the truth: All the bill does is set a limit at a point when the humanity of the child and the evidence of pain are impossible to ignore. It contains precisely the exceptions Virginians say they support, including protecting the life of the woman.

It is worth asking why pro-abortion Democrats are so afraid of the scientific reality about the humanity of that little baby. As a prominent Democratic pollster said last year, “Debating weeks [of gestation] is not where we want to be. People are terrible at math and terrible at biology.”

Virginians who reject this out-of-touch thinking will have opportunities to make their voices heard. One is the Virginia March for Life in Richmond this week, where thousands of grassroots advocates from all walks of life will gather at the capitol. Additionally, every member of the General Assembly must defend his or her seat this year. Only by engaging in the democratic process will Virginians ensure that our real views are respected, and basic decency in our laws doesn’t end up in the trash.

• Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

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