RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Republicans and Democrats state delegates sparred on the House floor Wednesday afternoon in response to a viral video about a piece of legislation that would loosen restriction on abortions in the third trimester.
Under current Virginia law, abortions in the third trimester are allowed if three physicians certify that, in their opinion, allowing the pregnancy to continue will likely result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair her physical or mental health.
HB 2491 introduced by Del. Kathy Tran (D) - 42nd District, would only require one doctor’s certification and remove the requirement that the impairment be substantial or irremediable. The bill also offers other changes to the state’s abortion laws, including no longer requiring abortions in the second trimester be conducted in a hospital.
The bill failed to get out of a House subcommittee on Monday, when it was tabled. A companion bill in the Senate failed in similar fashion in a committee two weeks ago.
The house bill started receiving a lot of attention Tuesday, when the Virginia House GOP Twitter account tweeted out video filmed by the Republican Standard that shows Del. Tran defending her bill from questioning by the subcommittee chair, House Majority Leader Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R) - 15th District.
“How late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?” asked Del. Gilbert in the clip.
“Or physical health,” said Del. Tran.
“Okay. I’m talking about the mental health,” said Del Gilbert.
“So, I mean, through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks,” said Del. Tran.
“Okay, but to the end of the third trimester?” asked Del. Gilbert.
“Yep. I don’t think we have a limit in the bill,” said Del. Tran.
“Where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth. She has physical signs that she is about to give birth. Would that still be a point at which she could request an abortion if she was so certified?” asked Del. Gilbert. “She’s dilating."
“Mr. Chairman, that would be a, you know, a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at that point” said Del. Tran.
“I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that,” said Del. Gilbert.
“My bill would allow that. Yes,” said Del. Tran.
In response to the video, several Democratic and Republican members of the House spoke on the floor on Wednesday, including Speaker M. Kirkland Cox (R) - 66th District. He stepped down from the dais to do so, a move he said had not been taken by a Speaker in decades.
“This bill will allow a mother who is showing physical signs of labor to get an abortion. We are really one small step from New York,” said Speaker Cox, referring to abortion legislation passed recently in New York.
“It was a moment of unbridled honesty about their agenda and their legislation and what it actually does,” said Del. Gilbert. “That the questions were answered honestly is on the one hand refreshing and on the other hand quite horrifying.”
But Democrats saw the video another way.
“Deliberately misleading and part of an orchestrated ambush,” said House Minority Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D) - 41st District.
"I was caught off guard and probably wasn't as artful in the moment as I could have been,” said Del. Tran after House adjourned for the day. "This bill is intended to remove unnecessary medical and unduly burdensome barriers that women have to accessing healthcare.”
Del. Tran added she does not expect the bill to be taken up again this session.