Late-term abortion remains in national spotlight as Virginia bill fails

Two Virginia politicians have faced backlash this week regarding statements they made on abortion. What we’re going to do this evening is look at those comments and some of the recent news in state abortion laws.

The Commonwealth of Virginia had proposed a law that would have expanded abortion parameters. The bill failed, but many were shocked by the cold manner with which bill sponsor Kathy Tran discussed the allowances under her law, if passed.

Republican delegate Todd Gilbert questioned Tran in a video clip which has gone viral. Here’s part of their exchange:

Gilbert: So how late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?

Tran: Or physical health.

Gilbert: Okay. I’m talking about mental health.

Tran: I mean, through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks.

Gilbert: So to the end of the third trimester?

Tran: Yes. I don’t think we have a limit in the bill.

Gilbert: So where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth, she has physical signs that she’s about give birth, would that still be a point at which she could still request an abortion if she was so certified? [pause] She’s dilating?

Tran: Mr. Chairman, you know, that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician, and the woman would make.

Gilbert: I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that.

Tran: My bill would allow that, yes.

This isn’t where the controversy ended in Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam was interviewed on Wednesday and said:

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 desire, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.

Some have been critical of these comments, arguing that he’s calling for infanticide. It does appear to be that way. Governor Northam has argued that the statement is taken out of context. People have argued that he misspoke. But Northam is a pediatric neurologist.

Are they calling for infanticide? There is debate. But even the fact that the debate has come to that point is telling. Even if they are not discussing literal infanticide where a baby is born and then euthanized, they were still supporting the abortion of a baby who would be moments away from a live birth. How is it really any better?

Late term abortion is already legal in several states: Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

Several states are broadening their abortion laws. Last week, the New York legislature voted to allow late-term abortions up to 40 weeks. Many were quick to defend this law, arguing that it wasn’t really all that significant. All the law did was allow late-term abortions when it was medically necessary. That’s untrue. The language of the law was intentionally vague allowing abortions past 24 weeks when “there is an absence of fetal viability or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”

The word “health” is what’s key in that law. This law was not created so that a woman could opt to have a late-term abortion in a life and death situation (that was already actually legal in New York). But the pro-choice camp was able to argue that the new law was much more narrow in scope than it actually was.

The governor of Illinois vowed last week to have the most progressive abortion laws in the nation. Rhode Island is also currently debating a late-term abortion bill.

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Josh Benner  has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.

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