RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The debate over late-term abortions is reaching new levels after Virginia Democrats and Republicans hold separate news conferences Thursday.
Monday night Del. Kathy Tran’s (D-Fairfax) bill (HB 2491) failed in subcommittee. The bill would have scaled back regulations on late-term abortions in the third trimester.
Similar legislation has been voted down twice before.
Thursday morning House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and other Republican leaders held a news conference following the heated discussion this week regarding that legislation.
This debate comes following New York’s decision to allow late-term abortions.
“When I saw it from New York it was extremely disturbing,” Cox said. “Essentially you have legislation that doesn’t protect the unborn at all. That you can have an abortion up to the point of birth.”
Under Virginia law, third-trimester abortions are allowed but require consultation with three doctors. They then determine if the woman could die or if her health would be “substantially and irremediably impaired” without the procedure.
“I know women in my family, women in my district, and women across Virginia who have had to make the very personal decision as to whether they’re going to have an abortion,” Trans said in a video posted to Twitter Thursday. “That’s why I introduced a bill to repeal the medically unnecessary and unduly burdensome barriers that Virginia women face when they’re accessing this health care service in consultation with their doctor.”
Wednesday Governor Ralph Northam defended Tran’s bill during a radio interview on WTOP.
"It’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable,” Northam said. “So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Prominent Republicans accused the governor of supporting “born-alive abortions” and even infanticide.
“I think he was very clear in what he said,” Cox said. “Resuscitate if that's what the mother and family desire. That's a discussion that would ensue. That's really a whole new level… I think that was very disturbing.”
“Kirk Cox has taken his Caucus completely off the deep end,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Accusing Governor Northam of supporting infanticide which would be laughable if it wasn't such a grotesque and abhorrent claim."
Northam’s communications director issued a statement clarifying his remarks:
“No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities, and the governor’s comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor.”
Thursday the Governor along with other Democratic leaders, and Herring held a news regarding the late-term abortion legislation.
“A lot of misinformation has been circulating about where Virginia Democrats stand on issues related to women’s reproductive health,” Northam said. “We’re here to set the record straight… Virginia Democrats are on the side of ensuring women have access to the healthcare they need."
When asked if Northam regretted what he said to WTOP, he stated he did not.
“When I’m asked questions a lot of the time it’s put in the context of being a physician,” Northam said. “Again realizing how we approach, manage patients and how we offer advice and counseling. So no, I don’t have any regrets but I do find how my comments, I did answer that question, and I do regret how they were mischaracterized. The personal insults towards me I really find disgusting.”
The debate over the bill has garnered attention on a national level.
“The extremism of this agenda is now on full display not only for Virginians to see but for the United States and the world,” said House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert. “The attention of the United States and the world is focused on Virginia and the agenda of our Democratic colleagues on the issues of abortion.”
Republicans also feel this kind of legislation is setting a precedent.
“If Democrats gain control of the General Assembly this fall, they have a Governor who is ready to sign legislation that will remove every protection of unborn children related to abortion,” said Delegate Kathy Byron. “We need to take these words seriously. We need to understand that this is what is yet to come folks.”
“As long as I have served, Republicans have waged an all-out assault on the reproductive freedom on the women of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn. “They’re ultimate goal is to deny women access to reproductive health... Virginia women are watching and Virginia women are paying attention.”
Delegate Emily Brewer shared her personal story during the Republican news conference about her upbringing by adoptive parents.
“The testimony I watched earlier this week shook me to my core,” Brewer said. “Back on that day in 1984 I didn’t quite arrive on time, but I lived. Had this legislation been in place, who knows how things could have turned out.”
While similar bills have failed before in the Virginia General Assembly, it doesn’t appear this debate is going away anytime soon.
“We need to take these words seriously,” Byron said. “We need to understand that this is what is yet to come folks. We need to make sure we do everything to stop it.”
“Desperation can be ugly,” Herring said. “What we’ve seen from Republicans over the last few days has been desperate, and it has been ugly.”
Delegate Tran was not seen at the Governor’s news conference Thursday, however demonstrators against the bill were seen holding signs.