RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), a practicing OB-GYN for more than 25 years, is proposing to cut the window for abortion in Virginia.
Under current state law, abortions are allowed up until the end of the second trimester of pregnancy — or about 26 weeks — and only after that point when three doctors conclude it would likely “result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”
A bill sponsored by Sen. Dunnavant would limit abortions to “during the second trimester” and before viability — when a fetus can survive outside the womb — defined in the legislation as 24 weeks or more or “in the estimation of three doctors,” but at least 22 weeks.
The proposal would also ban abortions during the third trimester except to save the mother’s life. It would maintain the exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when a mother’s life is in danger.
Dunnavant was one of four state lawmakers Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked to work on abortion legislation after he said he was seeking a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which came on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to an abortion.
Dunnavant’s bill provides that life support measures would be used when there is “any evidence of viability of a child that has been completely delivered.” The state’s abortion laws won’t apply to nonviable pregnancies, according to the legislation.
Democrats hold a 22-18 majority in the state Senate and have vowed to block any effort to restrict abortion coverage in Virginia, making it unlikely that Dunnavant’s legislation, or any other Republicans’, would be signed into law.
Sen. Dunnavant’s office did not immediately respond to a request for an interview, but she addressed the legislation in an op-ed column Thursday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“Abortion in the third trimester deprives a fully viable baby of life,” Dunnavant wrote in a column titled “Virginia can find consensus on abortion law.” “Delivery is the only appropriate medical intervention when a pregnancy has reached the 24-week threshold of survivability.”
On Friday, after a Senate subcommittee recommended Dunnavant’s bill, along with two other abortion bans, be rejected, the senator sent a statement to 8News.
“This legislation is about finding consensus, passing a law that gets rid of Virginia’s extreme abortion law, and focusing on making sure women have protections in the case of ectopic or miscarriage,” Dunnavant said in her statement. “Opponents to this bill have demonstrated their unwillingness to find a solution, aligned with best practices worldwide and the opinion of a majority of Americans and Virginians. They maintain the radical position of abortion up until 40 weeks of pregnancy.”
Update: This story was updated with Sen. Dunnavant’s statement, which came after publication.