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Virginia’s 2024 elections serve as a crucial abortion litmus test, highlighting its significance and implications.

Virginia Election Puts Abortion Issue in Focus

Virginia’s Election Offers a Glimpse of Abortion’s Future

A community fair in Stafford, Virginia became the stage for a crucial question that has dominated the state’s upcoming election: where do the candidates stand on a woman’s right to have an abortion? For Britainy Riggins, a government administrator who has had an abortion, preserving reproductive rights is a top priority as she considers her vote. Democratic state Senate candidate Joel Griffin eagerly assured her that he has always supported a woman’s right to choose.

This year’s Virginia election serves as a preview of the potency of the abortion issue in 2024, when both the presidency and Congress will be at stake. Virginia is the only southern state that has not enacted an abortion ban following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate a nationwide right. As a result, the issue has taken center stage in legislative races that will determine whether Republicans will have the power to implement new restrictions.

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Virginia Republicans Seek a Moderate Compromise

Aware of the backlash against stringent abortion bans in other states, Virginia Republicans have rallied around Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to limit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This proposal includes exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life, positioning it as a moderate compromise between a total ban and unrestricted abortions. If successful, this approach could provide a blueprint for Republicans nationwide on an issue that has troubled the party.

“I think most voters believe that abortion should not be banned, and most voters believe that there should be reasonable limits,” said Todd Gilbert, the Republican speaker of the House of Delegates.

Democrats Argue for Stronger Protections

Democrats, however, argue that a 15-week limit is unacceptable and caution that Republicans may seek to further restrict abortion in the future. They believe that the Virginia elections will showcase how Republicans are out of touch with American voter sentiment on the issue, regardless of the type of limit they support.

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“This isn’t just the last race of 2023 – it’s the first race of 2024,” said Susan Swecker, the state Democratic chair. “Virginia provides a roadmap for the next president.”

A Battle Fueled by Fundraising

Money has poured into Virginia as the election approaches. The national Democratic Party has spent over $3.5 million, while the liberal group States Project announced $4.5 million in spending. Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee has raised over $15 million since March. Democratic and Republican candidates have collectively raised $113 million, with control of both chambers likely to come down to a few competitive districts.

Abortion Takes Center Stage in Campaigns

Abortion has become a primary focus in campaign ads, with Democrats featuring it more than any other issue. Among the 14 most competitive races, 13 Democratic candidates mention abortion on their campaign websites, compared to five Republicans. Republicans, on the other hand, have focused on issues such as the economy, public safety, education, and parental rights, building on the successful strategies employed by Youngkin in the 2021 governor’s race.

The Battle of Campaign Ads

The abortion issue has fueled a battle of campaign ads. Republicans have accused Joel Griffin’s campaign of running misleading ads portraying Republican Tara Durant as supporting a no-exceptions ban on abortion. Durant, however, supports a 15-week limit with exceptions. Meanwhile, even some voters who favor abortion rights have criticized Griffin’s ad for being “ugly” and taking advantage of people’s perspectives.

The Future of Abortion in Virginia

The outcome of the Virginia election will shed light on the future of the abortion issue in the United States. Whether the Republican 15-week limit proposal gains traction or Democrats successfully defend reproductive rights, the results will have far-reaching implications.

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