Morrissey clarifies position following overturning of Roe v. Wade

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State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Chester) released a statement on Friday, June 24, following the news of the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

SCOTUS’ decision effectively sends the issue back to the states like it was prior to Roe, and Morrissey, who calls himself “pro-life” and has voted with Republicans on some abortion-related bills over the years, including his time in the House, clarified his position. 

Morrissey said he said he supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion up until the time an unborn child can feel pain, which he said was about 20 weeks. 

Other caveats include when the mother’s life or health is at risk, or if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. 

Although most scientists believe that the pain can be felt by a fetus at 20 weeks, one fairly recent study said it could be as early as 12 weeks. 

Stuart W.G. Derbyshire and John C. Bockmann wrote in the Journal of Medical Ethics on January 2020, “Overall, the evidence, and a balanced reading of the evidence, points towards an immediate and unreflective pain experience mediated by the developing function of the nervous system as early as 12 weeks.”  

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed a ban beginning at 15 weeks. 

State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) sponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act earlier this year. It would ban abortions after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger or there is a serious risk of irreversible major bodily function.

The bill, SB 710, would punish performance of an abortion as a Class 6 felony and also would provide for civil remedies against a physician or authorized nurse practitioner who performs an abortion. The bill failed 9-6 in the Senate Education and Health Committee.

Chase also released a statement on June 24. “I’m elated that after 50 years of injustice, the federal courts have reversed this tragic injustice and look forward to being on the right side of history in restoring due process and the Constitutional rights of the unborn,” she said.

The next General Assembly session is scheduled for January 2023. 

One-day budget amendment session

The General Assembly met on June 17 to consider Youngkin’s proposed amendments to the budget. Youngkin won some and lost some. 

Abortion funding

In one amendment, Morrissey voted with the Democrats against an amendment that would’ve prohibited public funding for abortions in limited cases of fetal abnormalities where the infant is likely to die shortly before or after birth. The amendment failed 20-19, and Morrissey cast the deciding vote. Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) was absent. 

Early release

Three Democrats, Sens. John Bell, D-Loudoun, Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack, and Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, voted with the Republicans to give Youngkin a 22-17 win on a bill to rollback early release from some prisoners. 

The vote means that roughly 550 inmates of 3,200 set to be released July 1 will no longer be freed on that day, according to the Virginia Mercury.

Morrissey disagreed with the amendment, calling it “a great soundbite.” He said that, under the 2020 law, offenders must still serve the violent crime portion of their sentence, with credits only applied to the portion of their sentences associated with nonviolent crimes.

Laboratory schools

An amendment that allows colleges and universities with teacher training programs to create K-12 laboratory schools passed after Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears (R) broke a 19-19 tie after Morrissey, who supports charter schools, walked off the floor. Morrissey then returned and voted against a related amendment that would have approved the use of $100 million in public schools funds to follow students to the lab schools. The budget already included $100 million for the lab schools, according to The Washington Post. 

Historically black colleges

Morrissey and Sen. Lionel Spruill (D-Chesapeake) voted with Republicans to move $10 million in college assistance for students living the country illegally and give it to historically black colleges. Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) voted no, but the measure passed 20-19. 

Most of the funding would go to Norfolk State and Virginia State universities, according to reports. 





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