'Orchestrated ambush’: VA Dems call out GOP over abortion bill

The General Assembly debate over an abortion bill reached a boil this week.
The General Assembly debate over an abortion bill reached a boil this week.((Source: NBC12))
Published: Jan. 30, 2019 at 8:58 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT/AP) - An intense battle over an abortion bill is boiling at the state capitol.

The debate intensified after a video of a Democratic delegate being questioned in committee went viral.

The bill in question would scale back regulations on late-term abortions in the third trimester. The bill did not progress in the General Assembly, but the political fallout continues.

Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax), the delegate featured in a video posted by Republicans, introduced House Bill 2491, which mirrors previous legislation that has been voted down twice before.

The bill would have reduced the number of doctors required to sign off on a third trimester abortion in Virginia from three to one should the mother’s health be in severe danger. The bill would have also scaled back other regulations that make it difficult for women to obtain abortions in the commonwealth.

“This bill is intended to remove unnecessary medical and unduly burdensome barriers that woman have to accessing healthcare,” Tran said.

But Republican legislators pulled no punches while questioning Tran during a committee hearing Monday.

It is that questioning that was subject of a video posted to Twitter by House Republicans that has been viewed more than 2.5 million times.

In the video, Tran is asked if the bill would allow an abortion if a mother has physical signs of labor, such as dilation. Tran said that it does.

That’s a subject of some confusion in the debate over the legislation because Virginia law already allows that timeline for abortions, meaning the questioning was in effect about a law that is already on the books.

Democrats called that committee questioning a choreographed ambush.

House Democrats tweeted that Republicans sought to “deliberately misrepresent” the bill’s provisions and said the fight was “fear mongering” and more representative of “Trump-style national politics rather than the Virginia way.”

“I believed that this was orchestrated to show what are very extreme and very unlikely effects that this bill would have,” Tran said.

Opponents said it was merely addressing the harsh truth of the bill.

“What my Democratic colleagues are most concerned about is what this moment actually revealed,” Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said. “It was a moment of unbridled honesty about their agenda and their legislation and what it actually does.”

Democrats say doctors are usually on hand at hearings to help address questions, but there were no doctors available for Monday’s hearing.

Further adding fuel to the debate, Gov. Ralph Northam is being accused by prominent Republicans of supporting infanticide because of comments he made about late-term abortions in which the infant is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth.

The Democratic governor and pediatric neurologist was defending efforts to loosen abortion restrictions during a radio interview on WTOP-FM Wednesday when described a hypothetical situation where a severely deformed newborn infant could be left to die.

Northam said that if a woman were to desire an abortion as she's going into labor, the baby would be "resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue" between doctors and the mother.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was one of several Republicans to denounce the comments, tweeting that Northam is openly supporting legal infanticide.

Northam’s office said Republicans were mischaracterizing his statement for political gain.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.