RICHMOND, Va. — Outcry over a video going viral on social media had lawmakers divided on the House floor Wednesday.
The video, posted on the House GOP Twitter account, shows Majority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert (R-District 15) asking Del. Kathy Tran (D-District 42) questions about legislation that would lift restrictions on certain abortions. Since Tuesday afternoon, it’s received nearly 2 million views.
Currently, third-trimester abortions are banned in Virginia, unless the pregnancy puts the woman’s life or health in danger. Three doctors have to sign off on the procedure for it to happen.
Specifically, the law says, “The physician and two consulting physicians certify certifies and so enter enters in the hospital record of the woman, that in their the physician’s medical opinion, based upon their the physician’s best clinical judgment, the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.” HB2491 would bring that down to one doctor, and also get rid of a few words so the law would read “result in the death of the woman or impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”
The legislation would also get rid of the 24-hour mandatory delay after a consultation to get an abortion.
A version of this bill carried in the Senate this year by Sen. Jennifer McClellan was killed in committee about two weeks ago.
This isn’t the first time this type of legislation has been brought up. Similar bills were on the table in 2017 and 2018, HB2186, HB1231 and SB910, but they all died early on in the legislative process.
“I was really caught off guard by the line of questioning because I thought all of the committee members knew the intent,” Del. Tran said in a one-on-one interview.
One point in the video, Del. Gilbert asks Del. Tran can abortion be performed “when she’s dilating.” Tran replied, “My bill would allow that. Yes.”
No doctors were present during Monday’s subcommittee hearing to elaborate more on these types of incidents. This bill would not have created any new standard for a third-trimester abortion, lawmakers say.
After gaveling in, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-District 66) stepped down from his post to deliver an address on the floor to other delegates. It’s the first time a House Speaker has done this in at least 30 years. “I wonder, did anyone in New York give a speech? Did anyone sound the alarm,” he said. “I will never stop fighting for the promise of life, as long as I hold a gavel.”
The moment brought up division across the floor. House Minority Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-District 41) called the video posted of the subcommittee meeting “misleading” and “manipulative.”
“It’s not the Virginia way we talk about time and time again on the floor,” she said, defending her fellow Northern Virginia Democrat.
Republicans accused Gov. Ralph Northam of supporting “infanticide” because of comments defending the abortion legislation this morning on WTOP.
Northam said that if a woman wanted an abortion as she’s going into labor, the baby would be “resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue” between doctors and the mother.
The Governor’s office says Republicans were mischaracterizing his statement for political gains.
While HB2491 was not formally killed in subcommittee Monday, but it likely will not be brought up again before the end of session.