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A Virginia Bill to Reduce Restrictions on Late-Term Abortions Spurs an Outcry

bill put forth in Virginia that would have eliminated certain requirements on late-term abortions in the state has prompted outcries of infanticide among its critics. The bill failed to make it out of subcommittee on Monday.

When Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurosurgeon, voiced his support of the bill, he drew criticism from prominent Republicans including President Donald Trump and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida). One of the bill's sponsors, Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran, has received death threats.

The bill sought to eliminate:

  • Existing restrictions that require second-term abortions to be performed in a hospital.
  • Procedures and processes, like ultrasounds, required for a woman to give her informed written consent to a late-term abortion (though her informed written consent is still required).
  • The required written consent of three physicians that a third trimester abortion is needed to "prevent the woman's death or impairment of her mental or physical health," and proof that such health risks are "substantial or irremediable."
  • Language that classifies any facility performing five or more abortions per month as hospitals, allowing clinics to exist without "complying with regulations establishing minimum standards for hospitals."

"I've had women in my family, women in my district and women across Virginia who've told me that they've really had to grapple with the very personal, private decision as to whether or not they're going to have an abortion," Tran told the Washington Post. "This bill would have repealed these barriers for them to access safely this medical service in consultation with their doctor."

The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade protects a woman's right to an abortion before the fetus becomes viable, but 43 states place limits on late-term abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1.3 percent of abortions are performed after 21 weeks' gestation.

Many states, including Virginia, make exceptions for cases where the life and/or health of the mother is at risk. New York enacted a new law on Monday permitting a woman to seek an abortion at any point in pregnancy if the woman's health is at risk.

"No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities, and the governor's comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor," Ofirah Yheskel, Northam's spokesperson, said in a statement.