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by Brandon Jarvis

In a rare move, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia (PPAV) endorsed in a Democratic primary race by choosing to back Lashrecse Aird in Senate District 13. Aird is running in a primary against state Sen. Joe Morrissey, a Democrat who says he is personally against abortion. 

“Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia is proud to endorse Lashrecse Aird to represent the people of Virginia’s 13th Senate District. Our rights are at risk and in Lashrecse we have a proven champion who will fight for our reproductive rights,” said Jamie Lockhart, the executive director of PPAV. “With an almost evenly divided State Senate and Governor Youngkin jockeying for the national support of anti-abortion extremists, Virginians need their elected officials to fight like hell to protect safe, legal abortion. They don’t need someone like Senator Morrissey who could help Governor Youngkin enact his dangerous anti-abortion agenda.”

Lockhart specifically cited SB 710 from Sen. Amanda Chase ® which is a bill Morrissey co-patroned last session. The bill died but it would have banned abortion at 20 weeks in Virginia. 

Governor Glenn Youngkin has said that he and Republicans will seek a 15-week ban on abortion during the upcoming legislative session in January. 

Morrissey said during an interview Wednesday that he has not agreed to support a 15-week ban but will consider any bill with a pain threshold. “If there is a pain threshold bill that comes in, I intend to do exactly what I have always done and give it a full vetting,” Morrissey said.  

Morrissey also said that he believes his position on abortion is mainstream in Virginia. “My position is the mainstream position shared by a majority of people in Virginia,” he said Wednesday. “Very much like Senator [Tim] Kaine, I am a Catholic who is personally opposed to abortion. With that being said, I dont think the government should be telling men or women what to do with their bodies. I think it is a decision between a woman and her physician, I don’t think women should be jailed, and I think there should be exceptions.”

Aird said Wednesday that she wants an answer from Morrissey as to where he stands on the issue. “Joe has a very simple question to answer: does he support an abortion ban? It is as simple as yes or no. Voters deserve to know,” she said. “My position is clear. Joe Morrissey is aligned with Youngkin and is a threat to healthcare in Virginia, especially after hearing him spew Republican talking points.”

The Republican talking points that Aird is referencing are the comments from Morrissey on Wednesday when he criticized Aird for backing a bill in 2019 sponsored by Del. Kathy Tran (D). This same bill was used by Republicans during the 2021 elections to paint Democrats as extreme. 

Republicans used Democratic Del. Kathy Tran’s 2019 presentation of the bill – which would have eased some restrictions for late-term abortion in Virginia – as a key political talking point for elections in 2019 and 2021. Tran said she misspoke when she replied “yes” on the House floor to a question on whether her bill would allow an abortion while the mother is in labor about to give birth. “I should have said: ‘Clearly, no, because infanticide is not allowed in Virginia, and what would have happened in that moment would be a live birth,’” Tran said during a Washington Post interview at the time. 

Morrissey criticized Aird on Wednesday for supporting that bill in 2019. “Here is where Aird is wrong,” he said. “She supported House bill 2491 which would allow abortion up until the day of delivery. The people that I talk to throughout Virginia and in our district – they have a word for that: Infanticide or murder.” 

The bill from Tran died in committee in 2019 and never received a vote on the House floor. Aird was not on the committee that voted to kill the bill. Republicans killed it 5-3

Aird responded by saying these comments from Morrissey are false and dangerous. “His response today is nothing more than the same exact attack as every Republican in 2022 and doing so falsely,” Aird said. “The truth is that infanticide is already illegal and clinicians already have an obligation to provide appropriate medical care under all circumstances. To suggest otherwise is false, offensive, and dangerous.”  

Aird also referenced the bill that Morrissey co-patroned with Chase earlier this year in a statement to Virginia Scope Wednesday. “He can’t say he’s never put a number on his position because he did when he co-patroned an abortion ban last session,” she said. 

The Senate currently has a 21-18 Democratic majority with a Republican lieutenant governor to break tie votes. A special election is taking place on Jan. 10 for a seat being left open by Rep.-elect Jen Kiggans which could benefit Democrats and give them an extra seat as a buffer on abortion legislation taking away Morrissey’s power away on this issue. 

The district that Aird and Morrissey are running in is friendly to Democrats as Terry McAuliffe won it by 14 points in 2021 according to an analysis from VPAP. Coming from Petersburg, Aird formerly represented part of the district from 2015 to 2021 before she lost in a close race to Kim Taylor (R). Morrissey has represented the district since 2021 after he successfully primaried sitting Democratic Sen. Rosalyn Dance. 

Primary elections will take place in June of 2023.

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By vascope