Youngkin Rejects Texas Heartbeat Bill As "Unworkable and Confusing"

This wasn't a gotcha question either; Youngkin owes the pro-life movement better.

Pro-lifers are buzzing this morning about Glenn Youngkin’s shocking answer in opposition to the Texas bill during last night’s Virginia gubernatorial debate at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia.

When asked, Youngkin categorically refused to support the legislation, stating that although the bill was “the standard we are all looking at” the legislation itself was “unworkable and confusing” even with the enforcement provisions stripped away.

Here’s what happened.

Just so that there is no misunderstanding about what Glenn Youngkin said and the question that was asked? Here is the transcript of the question with the moments Youngkin deflected to McAuliffe removed for brevity and clarity:

MODERATOR: Mr. Youngkin, in recent years eight states have enacted bans on abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected at about the sixth week of pregnancy. Most of them have been blocked by the courts. This month, a Texas ban went into effect. The Texas law includes controversial enforcement provisions; I am not asking about those. Here is my question. If the Virginia legislature passed a fetal heartbeat ban on abortion, one that included the exceptions you support for rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother, would you sign it into law?

YOUNGKIN: This is an incredibly sensitive and personal topic, and I do appreciate the fact that you would like to write legislation with me.

I think the Texas bill is one that is the standard right now that we are all looking at. I would not sign the Texas bill today. As I have said through this entire campaign, I am pro-life. I believe in exceptions in the case of rape and incest and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. The Texas bill also… also is unworkable and confusing. What we are not doing this evening is talking to my opponent about his extreme views . . . .

MODERATOR: Mr. Youngkin, I just want to be clear. You said you would not sign a Texas law, but I am not asking about the Texas law. I am asking about a law that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected and a law that includes the exceptions you support for rape, incest and to preserve the life of the mother. Would you sign that law?

YOUNGKIN: Susan, we can sit down and write that legislation together. What I have said is that I do believe that a pain threshold bill would be appropriate. . . .

MCAULIFFE: Are you satisfied with that answer?

MODERATOR: Well I think that’s the answer I am going to get.

MCAULIFFE: <laughs>

What is clear at this rate is that the pro-life movement is divided on the Texas bill, but not because it goes too far.

In fact, opposition to the Texas bill comes from certain pro-life groups precisely because it does not go far enough — regulating rather than ending abortion.

Yet nowhere in the nation is the pro-life movement opposing the Texas bill because it goes too far. The moderator was careful to remove the enforcement provisions from the question and in fact had to repeat herself on the question.

Youngkin didn’t have a clear answer on a question everyone knew would be asked.

Who Sold Out? Probably Not Youngkin…

So here is what we are left with.

  1. The Texas bill is indeed the standard.

  2. Youngkin opposes the Texas bill (and not for the enforcement provisions).

  3. Youngkin believes a pain threshold bill — different than a heartbeat bill — would be appropriate.

Let me tell you why “So you want Terry to win?” is the absolute worst argument the paid Youngkin boosters could make right now.

Pro-lifers didn’t make this decision on our own behalf. Someone else decided that — because McAuliffe was worse — pro-life activism could be gambled away in the hopes that NOVA moderates could be mollified.

Guess who wins in that exchange? Not the babies — that’s for sure.

The fact of the matter is that pro-life Virginians didn’t make this decision of their own volition — Axiom and the Youngkin brain trust decided to trade pro-life support for Northern Virginia votes.

Let’s be clear about the calculated trade-off here.

In 2013, Republicans ran the most pro-life gubernatorial candidate in Virginia history. Ken Cuccinelli came within 2.6% against McAuliffe while fending off a third-party libertarian candidate who came in at 6% in a chronically underfunded camapign.

By contrast? Youngkin is presently down by 5% points in the aggregate polling.

Don’t sell me for a second that being pro-life hurts a soul in Virginia.

What stings is that some cubicle wonk decided that pro-life values were not essential to victory.

Or worse and perhaps more accurately, that pro-life leaders (sic) would simply bend over and thank Republicans profusely for the breadcrumbs we deserve — because frankly, our leaders don’t ask for more. It was a trade-off they could make.

So they did.

Not sure who’s to blame in that.

Probably not the Youngkin campaign — right?

To Be Clear: McAuliffe is BAD (But That Is No Reason To BEND)

Now let’s make a few things very clear. Terry McAuliffe will indeed make things WORSE.

This is the man who successfully fought to remove basic health care standards rising to the level of modern dentistry in abortion centers. McAuliffe supports the Kathy Tran abortion bill that would allow abortion up to the very moment of birth and possibly beyond. McAuliffe supports abortion-by-mail and death-on-demand bills that would allow RU486 to be delivered secretly — and possibly without the knowledge or consent of parents for children under the age of 18.

But just because McAuliffe is worse doesn’t make Youngkin better on the question of protecting human life. Pro-life Republicans are owed something more — quickly.

Now if you are a Republican and victory is your goal? These are the numbers you move around. Pro-life Virginians may be dismayed — this one certainly is — but the job of the consultant class isn’t to cater to my specific worldview. It is to put their candidate over the finish line.

Now if you are pro-life and victory is your goal? The worst thing one could do is bend the knee. Planned Parenthood doesn’t bend on abortion. VCDL doesn’t bend on 2A issues. ACLU doesn’t bend on 1A issues. When you cross those organizations? There is a direct and tangible penalty for doing so.

Yet when you cross pro-life organizations in Virginia has there ever been a penalty? Of course not.

And we wonder why we have 63,000,000 abortions in America since Roe.

A good 35% of Republicans are pro-life to the point where it is their only issue. Meaning that if a Republican is soft on the basic right to exist, many simply stay home or leave the ballot blank.

Show Me Some Guts

Youngkin is going to have to show pro-life Virginia voters some conviction in matters of life and death — more than others have been willing to show.

I’ve offered before two Big Ideas before:

  1. Grant funding to Pregnancy Resource Centers (perhaps using revenue from gaming rather than the Virginia lotto) to help young mothers and their babies;

  2. Full and total defunding of Planned Parenthood in any budget with a promise to veto any budget bill that includes it.

Yet Virginia pro-life organizations couldn’t even extract these concessions. Which as a pro-life Catholic, I find beyond disturbing.

Maybe Youngkin will hear it from pro-life Virginians equally as bewildered.

It’s not anger — it’s hope from millions of pro-life Virginians that someone will offer the babies more than the status quo.

If I seem disappointed, it is because I am disappointed.

For all the good on all the other issues, if we cannot support the basic human right to exist? What’s the rest of this for — victory? — if we predicate the entire framework on the unrequited suffering of the most defenseless human beings in our society?

I can’t do it. Others may — but not myself.


Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.