Virginia Senate passes bill removing abortion safety standards; governor expected to sign

Crisis Pregnancy Center
Executive Director of Alternatives Pregnancy Center Janet Lyons points to a plastic replica of a fetus at twelve weeks which is used to show women who come into the center to find out if they are pregnant and what the stage of growth looks like, in Waterloo, Iowa, July 6, 2011. |

Virginia’s state Senate narrowly approved a bill that removes certain regulations on abortion, including an ultrasound requirement and that some abortion clinics be held to the same health and safety standards as hospitals.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 733 on Wednesday in a vote of 21 to 20. The Senators themselves were tied 20-20 until Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who plans to run for governor in 2021 despite multiple sexual assault allegations against him, broke the tie.

Among its provisions, SB 733 states that facilities that “perform five or more first trimester abortions per month” will cease being designated as “hospitals” regarding “regulations establishing minimum standards for hospitals.”

The legislation also repeals a state law requiring that a woman be informed of the benefits and risks of an abortion 24 hours before undergoing the procedure, the National Review reported.

“The bill retains Virginia’s requirement that an abortionist obtain the ‘informed written consent of the pregnant woman’ seeking an abortion, but it repeals the requirement to perform an ultrasound and offer the woman an opportunity to see the ultrasound,” National Review added. 

Olivia Gans Turner, president of Virginia Society for Human Life, a pro-life group, denounced the passage of the bill.

“This week will be remembered as a tragic one for the well-being of all women in Virginia as well as their unborn children,” Turner said Wednesday.

“The action of the General Assembly only serves to protect abortionists who once more will be able to hide the truth from the women that come to them.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bill. Last year, he garnered controversy for, among other things, appearing to endorse infanticide when defending a pro-choice bill.

“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,” Northam told WTOP at the time.

“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.”

Many pro-life activists and politicians decried Northam’s comments, among them U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who said on the floor of the Senate last year: “Let's be clear what we're talking about. We're talking about killing a baby that's been born. We're not talking about some euphemism, we're not talking about a clump of cells.” 

“Everyone in the Senate ought to be able to say unequivocally that killing that little baby is wrong. This doesn't take any political courage. And, if you can't say that, if there's a member of this body that can't say that, there may be lots of work you can do in the world but you shouldn't be here. You should get the heck out of any calling in public life where you pretend to care about the most vulnerable among us.”

While Virginia is a step closer to liberalizing its abortion laws, in neighboring Kentucky, the state Senate passed a measure aimed at protecting babies born alive after an attempted abortion.

The Kentucky bill, which mandates that a doctor and other health workers save a child that survives an abortion, unanimously passed the Senate in a vote of 32-0.

“We want to make sure that life is protected not only in the womb but certainly after the baby's out of the womb," said Kentucky state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the bill's lead sponsor, in a statement reported by The Associated Press.

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