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Youngkin’s PAC spends $1.4 million on ad claiming 15-week abortion ban is not a ban

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin hopes to win a Republican majority in the General Assembly that will roll back reproductive rights.

By Josh Israel - October 12, 2023
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Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., speaks to David Rubenstein during an interview hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., speaks to David Rubenstein during an interview hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s political action committee has launched a $1.4 million ad campaign aimed at convincing voters that his proposed 15-week abortion ban is not really a ban. Youngkin has been leading a massive fundraising effort aimed at winning full GOP control of the Virginia General Assembly in this year’s election and to end the commonwealth’s status as the only state in the South with broad reproductive freedom.

The governor, who was caught on camera during his 2021 campaign admitting that he was hiding his anti-abortion views in order to win the election, has been attempting to roll back abortion rights since taking office. In July 2022, Youngkin told abortion opponents, “Any bill that comes to my desk I will sign happily and gleefully in order to protect life.” Youngkin and the Republican-led House of Delegates have proposed abortion bans but have been blocked thus far by the narrow Democratic majority in the Virginia Senate.

The 2023 election, which is underway and ends on Nov. 7, will determine all 100 seats in the House and all 40 seats in the Senate. Democrats have been running ads noting that the right to choose an abortion is very much at stake.

In Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC’s 30-second spot, a narrator tries to rebut the idea that abortion rights are really at risk: “It’s just not true, their lies about abortion. It’s disinformation. Politics at its worst. Here’s the truth: There is no ban. Virginia Republicans support a reasonable 15-week limit with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. It’s a commonsense position that most Virginians support too. But Virginia Democrats support no limits on abortion. Reasonable limits or no limits at all? That’s the truth.”

A PAC spokesperson told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday that it is spending $1.4 million to air the ad across the commonwealth.

At the moment the ad claims that most Virginians back a 15-week prohibition, the following text appears on the screen: “69% of Virginians support some limits on abortion. University of Mary Washington Poll.”

While Youngkin has claimed “substantial support across Democrats, across Republicans, men and women, for a bill that would protect life in 15 weeks,” polls, including the one cited in the ad, clearly contradict him.

A March Washington Post-Schar School poll found that just 17% of Virginia voters want stricter state abortion laws. Forty-one percent of Virginia voters want abortion laws to be less strict, and 34% want them to remain as they are. Even among Republican voters, just 36% support new limits.

In August, the Republican research firm Founders Insight released a survey showing that 38% of Virginia voters want to keep the status quo and 16% want to eliminate all restrictions, for a total of 54% against new restrictions.

No Virginia Democratic lawmaker or legislative candidate has endorsed unlimited abortion. In 2020, Democratic majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate passed and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed the current law, the Reproductive Health Protection Act. The law in Virginia says that abortion is legal until a fetus is developed enough to survive outside the uterus, but prohibits abortion after six months of pregnancy except when necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.

The University of Mary Washington poll, released Sept. 27, found 23% of Virginians believe abortion should be illegal in all cases and 34% believe it should be legal in most cases. Just 27% believe it should be illegal in most cases, and 8% say it should be illegal in all situations. In total, 57% of those surveyed believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared to 35% who do not.

This is not the first time Virginia Republicans have dishonestly claimed that a 15-week ban with a few exceptions is not really a ban. Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, facing a tough reelection fight in the 16th Senate District against Democratic state Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, argued in an August video message that the 15-week ban was “not a ban, but legislation that reflects compassionate common sense.”

Republican candidates in several competitive districts have tried to cover up their support for abortion bans, making no mention of their views on their campaign websites.

Some Virginia Republicans acknowledge that they want even tougher limits. Sen. Mark Peake told Roanoke TV station WSLS in January that he supports the 15-week ban Youngkin wants, but added: “Most of us on the Republican side would prefer a bill that bans abortions much earlier. Some talk about the pain threshold, some from conception.”

“A ban is a ban, plain and simple. We’ve seen the horrific impact of abortion bans across the country. People are forced to give birth, even when it puts their lives at risk or when their pregnancies are nonviable,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia executive director Jamie Lockhart said in a press statement on Tuesday. “In states where bans include exceptions like the one that Youngkin is arguing for, we have seen that people still struggle to access care because medical providers are under legal threat. Already, one in three American women now live in states where they no longer have control over their bodies.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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