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Role of state government in abortion and schools looms large in local Va. Senate races

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) While Arlington has tended to be a Democratic stronghold, two of its incumbent state Senators who are up for re-election are still feeling the urgency of this election where abortion is concerned.

Sen. Barbara Favola is up against Republican David Henshaw for the newly redrawn 39th District and Sen. Adam Ebbin is up against Republican Sophia Moshasha for the 40th District.

With the election season coming to a close, ARLnow asked about their top priorities. For Favola and Ebbin, that starts with blocking GOP attempts to limit abortion access and raising wages for teachers. Henshaw and Moshasha both zeroed in on enshrining parental rights in schools and crime and safety, with Henshaw also supportive of lowering the cost of living through lower taxes.

Favola says her first priority is ensuring that access to abortion care under the Roe v. Wade framework “remains safe and legal.”

“This important healthcare decision must remain between a woman and her doctor,” Favola said. “The government should have no part in this personal decision and recent proposals by Governor Youngkin to criminale providers should an abortion ban be adopted are not acceptable. Arlington voters overwhelmingly believe that bodily autonomy should be a protected right. I will work to bring a state constitutional amendment before the voters regarding the right to bodily autonomy.”

But Henshaw says Democrats are pushing for abortion policies that go beyond what the average Virginia voter thinks is reasonable.

“I think they’re out of touch with most Virginians,” he said.

He pointed to a 2021 poll showing that 65% of Americans surveyed say abortions should be illegal in most or all cases. The same survey found Republicans and Democrats alike support abortions if the mother’s life is endangered, if the pregnancy results from rape or incest, or if the child has a life-threatening illness.

“They’re still pushing for full abortion all the way up to 40 weeks,” he said, referencing a 2019 attempt to loosen restrictions on third-trimester abortions.

At the time, then-Gov. Ralph Northam tried to explain why third-trimester abortions typically occur, such as when the baby has a severe deformity or is not going to survive. In these cases, he said a mother would deliver the child and the child would be “kept comfortable” while a “discussion ensues between the physicians and the mother.” Some Republicans later interpreted his comments as supporting infanticide.

Ebbin says abortion is one of many issues threatened if Republicans take the Senate and enact a “full-on MAGA agenda.”

“If Republicans were to take control of the legislature, they would criminalize abortion, that’s been clear,” he said. “They would roll back the progress we’ve made on gun safety — getting rid of red flag laws and background checks — based on what they’ve introduced in years past and passed in the House.”

He says it is important for Arlingtonians to elect Democrats to prevent Gov. Glenn Youngkin from “running amok” and “weaponizing his incompetence,” pointing to $201 million less in public school aid that was lost due to a state error.

By contrast, Ebbin says, Democrats led an initiative to give teachers a 12% raise.

“We have to commit more money for teacher and law enforcement salaries to fill the gaps in both public service sectors,” he said.

Favola supports higher pay for teachers, as well as protecting teachers from what she characterized as threats to academic freedom when it comes to teaching history. Youngkin was elected on a wave of parent discontent about education — from Covid closures to curriculum — and kicked off his tenure trying to root out “inherently divisive concepts.”

“These issues are resonating across the Commonwealth and voters know they can trust Democrats to deliver on protecting personal privacy and bolstering public schools,” Favola said. “Democratic candidates are running on their record and connecting with voters on issues that they care about.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Henshaw says school governance is one of his top issues, including policy decisions related to transgender students.

“You’ve heard Gov. Youngkin say he believes parents should be at the end of the table,” he said. “I completely agree with that.”

“Our schools allow a student to keep their gender dysphoria a secret from their parents,” he continued. “And at the same time, they’re affirming another gender. So to me, that the parent has to be part of that conversation. Absolutely.”

Moshasha likewise says she will stand up “for the sanctity of the family and the fundamental right of parents to make crucial decisions for their children.”

“Regrettably, my opponent, Adam Ebbin, does not share the same sentiment,” she said, pointing to a recent voter guide published by the religious nonprofit The Family Foundation. Per the survey, Ebbin supported repealing parental consent for abortions and did not support requiring parental consent for counseling.

“It is evident that my opponent’s stance not only undermines the pivotal role of parents but also threatens the safety and protection of our youth,” she said.

Moshasha is also pledging to address crime and safety, with similar talking points to those Henshaw and Arlington County Board candidate Juan Carlos Fierro have made.

“Witnessing the rapid escalation of crime not only within our community but across the nation has deeply concerned me. From an increase in shootings and carjackings to the menace of porch piracy and fentanyl overdoses, our streets have become hotbeds of criminal activity,” Moshasha said. “Regrettably, certain media narratives and political voices have unfairly vilified law enforcement, while simultaneously excusing the actions of those responsible for destroying lives, businesses, and neighborhoods.”

She says she would support giving law enforcement more resources, fortifying laws on violent crime “to reinstate a sense of law and order and prevent recidivism.” She also supports exploring additional educational and rehabilitation programs, fostering opportunities for offenders to exit the justice system as productive members of society.

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