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Failed Late-term Abortion Bill Divides Virginia Lawmakers

Freshman Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) introduced a bill to remove requirement that three doctors sign off on a third-trimester abortion.
Freshman Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) introduced a bill to remove requirement that three doctors sign off on a third-trimester abortion. Craig Carper/WCVE News

Virginia Republicans are taking aim at Democrats over the viral video of a state lawmaker explaining her controversial abortion bill.

Right now, Virginia allows third-trimester abortions, but requires three doctors to certify that the abortion is medically necessary.

Del. Kathy Tran’s (D-Fairfax) bill , had it passed, would have eliminated that requirement. One doctor would still have to approve the procedure. Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who chairs the committee where the bill was heard Monday, asked Tran if her bill would permit abortions in the moments leading up to childbirth.

“She has physical signs that she’s about to give birth. Would that still be a point at which she could request an abortion if she was so certified?” Gilbert asked. “She is dilating.”

Tran stumbled to explain.

“Mr. Chairman, that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at that point,” Tran said.

“I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that,” Gilbert responds.

“My bill would allow that, yes,” Tran said.

House Republicans posted a video of the exchange on social media, which has been shared thousands of times.

Tran, who made national news last year when she breastfed her child on the House floor was widely criticized over the abortion legislation and has since deleted her Twitter account.

Tran’s bill died in committee Monday, but House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) moved to condemn the legislation on the House Floor Wednesday.

“I will never stop fighting for the promise of life, as long as I hold a gavel,” he said. “As long as I can speak into this microphone. As long as I have the privilege of this floor.”


Political motivations

Democrats responded that Republicans deliberately mischaracterized the bill and the current law for political gain.

“The post clearly - and the tweets - were meant to inflame passions throughout the social media echo chamber. And they succeeded,” said House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax). “What was the result? Ongoing harassment, intimidation against the patron, several members of this body, their families and their children.”

Governor Ralph Northam defended the bill on the monthly WTOP radio program “Ask the Governor”.

“We want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions,” Northam said. “We want the decisions to be made by the mothers and their providers. This is why legislators, most of whom are men by the way, shouldn’t be telling a woman what she should and shouldn’t be doing with her body.”

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University said abortion is a complicated medical issue that resonates well with Republican voters.

“It’s one that’s very hard for Democrats to defend, so it can be exploited easily for campaign reasons,” Bitecofer said.

House Republicans may face tough odds in the November election, now that a Federal judge has selected a new redistricting map that favors Democrats.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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