Outrage mounted to a fever-pitch Wednesday as conservatives voiced opposition to a new bill proposed in the Virginia legislature that would've allowed abortions up to 40 weeks of pregnancy and permit abortions outside of a hospital during the second trimester.
Virginia Democrat Delegate Kathy Tran, who proposed the currently defeated bill, explained in a viral video during a subcommittee hearing last week that the bill would also allow women to decide if they want to have an abortion as they dilate ahead of giving birth.
In the video, chairman of the subcommittee, Delegate Todd Gilbert asked Tran, “How late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion?”
Tran explained to him that the bill, Virginia House Bill 2491 known as the Repeal Act, would eliminate current restrictions on late-term abortions and allow abortions up until 40 weeks.
“Through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to forty weeks ... I don't think we have a limit in the bill,” she responds pointedly.
“Where it’s obvious a woman is about to give birth?” Gilbert asked. Even when “she has physical signs that she is about to give birth? She’s dilating?”
“My bill would allow that, yes,” Tran said.
The bill will not move forward out of the subcommittee, Gilbert told Live Action.
The video, which has been making the rounds on social media, drew swift condemnation from conservatives such as Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who also serves as associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, called the proposal an “atrocity”
“If you are pro-choice and this shocks you, you need to know that Roe v. Wade and its companion decision Doe v. Bolton make this kind of atrocity into a constitutional right,” he noted on Twitter.
In addition to allowing abortions up until 40 weeks, The Repeal Act would have eliminated all the procedures and processes, such as the performance of an ultrasound, required to effect a woman's informed written consent to the performance of an abortion. Informed written consent, however, would still be required for an abortion.
The bill also wouldn't have required more than one physician to certify that a third trimester abortion is necessary to prevent a woman's death or impairment of her mental or physical health.
When asked if he supported the measure, in a WTOP interview Wednesday morning, Virginia’s Democrat Governor Ralph Northam defended it.
“I certainly can’t speak for delegate Tran but I would tell you, this is why decisions such as this should be made by providers, physicians and the mothers and fathers that are involved. When we talk about third trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of the mother, obviously, with the consent of the physician, more than one physician by the way,” Northam said.
“And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, where there may be a fetus that’s not viable, 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. It would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother. So I think this was really blown out of proportion,” he continued. “Then again, we want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions. We want the decision to be made by the mother and their providers. And this is why legislators … most of whom are men, shouldn’t be telling a woman what she should and shouldn’t be doing with her body.”
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat noted studies on Wednesday, however, showing that most third-trimester abortions are not performed due to threats to the health of the mother or unborn child.
“Worth noting while watching the ‘moderate’ governor of Virginia using his reassuring voice to discuss letting born-alive infants die comfortably that most third-trimester abortions are not performed for reasons of fetal or maternal health,” he tweeted, and linked to a 2013 report by Guttmacher Institute.
Responding to Northam’s support of the bill Wednesday, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said it was “horrifying.”
“This is nothing short of horrifying, a shock to any functioning conscience. My oldest son was born at 28 weeks, fighting for life and with severe health issues, in a Russian village. I thank God every day his birthmother did not share the ghoulish view of his worth and dignity that we are hearing today,” he wrote in a series of tweets.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who sponsored the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, had a similar response in comments to National Review.
“This is morally repugnant,” he said. “In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide.’ I don’t care what party you’re from — if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.”
Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Northam responded to the backlash, stating, “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. Attempts to extrapolate these comments otherwise is in bad faith and underscores exactly why the governor believes physicians and women, not legislators, should make these difficult and deeply personal medical decisions.”
Virginia’s abortion bill comes in the wake of the New York state Legislature passing a bill last Tuesday that made it legal for abortionists and other health care professionals to perform abortions up to birth for any reason.