“My bill would allow that, yes.”
Virginia Democrat Kathy Tran on Monday admitted that a pro-abortion bill she sponsored would let women terminate a pregnancy up until the moment of birth, including to protect their own mental health.
Tran made the comments during a hearing in the state House of Delegates, of which she is a member. Todd Gilbert, the Republican House majority leader, asked Tran if a woman who appears ready to give birth would be able to get an abortion if a doctor thought she would otherwise suffer psychological harm.
“Mr. Chairman, that would be … a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at that point,” Tran replied.
“I understand that,” Gilbert pushed. “I’m asking if your bill allows that.”
Tran then acknowledged: “My bill would allow that, yes.”
A video of the exchange provoked backlash from conservatives. Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin tweeted called it a “sad commentary on the culture of death.”
First New York, and now a proposed Virginia bill that would legalize abortion up to the moment of birth…
This is a sad commentary on the culture of death that continues to creep insidiously into the laws of our county…
— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) January 30, 2019
Tran’s bill, The Repeal Act, would remove repeal restrictions on abortions during the third trimester, or up till 40 weeks of pregnancy. Among other rules, the legislation ― which was tabled in committee this week ― would do away with the requirement that two other physicians certify that a third-trimester abortion is necessary to prevent the woman’s death or harm to her mental or physical health.
Leading Virginia Democrats have come out in support of the bill.
Gov. Ralph Northam appeared on local radio station WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” on Wednesday to defend the legislation. But he ended up raising further concerns by seeming to suggest that it would allow babies to be killed even after birth.
“If a mother is in labor … 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 mother,” Northam said.
Host Julie Carey did not ask Carey to clarify.
Northam also seemed to undermine the legislation’s provision that doctors would no longer need to get backup to authorize third-trimester abortions.
“I think it’s always good to get a second opinion and for at least two providers to be involved in that decision because these decisions shouldn’t be taken lately, and so I would certainly support more than one provider,” he said.
Northam later sought to clarify, through his spokeswoman, that he was only referring to “tragic or difficult circumstances, such as nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities.” The spokeswoman, Ofirah Yheskel, accused Republicans of attempting to “extrapolate these comments in bad faith” and “playing politics with women’s health.”
Statement from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) spokesman Ofirah Yheskel on his abortion remarks:
"The governor's comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman [facing nonviable pregnancy or severe fetal abnormalities] went into labor." pic.twitter.com/7FHeRbkobF
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) January 30, 2019
The controversy of the Virginia bill came as yet another national political brawl over abortion broke out.
In recent years, a number of Republican-majority states have passed laws and taken other steps to try to limit abortions. Texas earlier this month won a major Fifth Circuit Court decision that allowed it to end its Medicaid relationship with Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider.
Meanwhile, amid liberal panic over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s recent ascent to the Supreme Court, a number of Democratic states have moved to ease restrictions on abortions. New York last week passed a law that makes it easier for women to get third-trimester abortions.
- Virginia Democratic Del. Kathy Tran speaks at a hearing at the State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, on Jan. 28, 2019.: Screen grab from YouTube