As legislators convened in Richmond for the General Assembly’s one-day session to consider the governor’s vetos on Wednesday, thousands marched on the Capitol against the failed Democrat-led legislation that would have repealed any meaningful restrictions on late-term abortions. Capitol Police estimated that 6,500 were in attendance to protest the bill carried by Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) and Governor Ralph Northam’s (D) subsequent “infanticide” comments.
The “Virginia March for Life,” the largest pro-life demonstration at the statehouse in recent memory, was organized by a partnership between The Family Foundation, Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Society for Human Life, and the national March for Life.
As thousands stood outside the statehouse, a few dozen members of the House and Senate Republican caucuses made an appearance on the steps of the Capitol, with some giving a few, short remarks that were met with loud, complimentary roars from the crowd.
“There’s not a more important issue that I’ve deal with in my career in the legislature than life,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox, (R-Colonial Heights), who was welcomed with chants of “Thank you!”
Earlier in the day, Democrats held their own pro-abortion rally which featured Catholics for Choice, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, women who have proudly had abortions, and other abortion advocates. The meeting dubbed “Speak Out for Abortion Access” had just an estimated 60 people in attendance, showing a stark contrast compared to the thousands who came out to reject doing away with all protections for the unborn, even situations wherein an child born after a failed abortion attempt could face death.
“We believe that all people should have the ability to make our own personal reproductive health care decisions,” said Senate Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax), according to a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I promise you that I will stand up and fight every day as a proud pro-choice state senator…and I will not stop until all of your voices are heard and all of us have reproductive freedom.”
The nationwide backlash started after the “Repeal Act,” introduced as H.B. 2491 by Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Springfield), was set to repeal restrictions on third trimester abortions, allow abortion doctors to self-certify the necessity of late-term procedures, eliminate informed consent requirements, repeal abortion clinic health and safety standards, permit late-term abortions to be performed in outpatient clinics, remove ultrasound requirements, and eliminate Virginia’s 24-hour waiting period.
During her presentation of the bill in a House subcommittee, Delegate Tran said abortions would be carried out “through the third trimester.” She added that “the third trimester goes all the way up to forty weeks.”
Delegate Tran also clarified that abortion procedures would be allowed up until the end of a woman’s pregnancy.
“I don’t think we have a limit in the bill,” she added.
In response to a question from House Majority Leader Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), the subcommittee’s chairman, Delegate Tran also suggested that partial-birth abortions would be subject to the bill’s repeal of existing restrictions on the procedure.
“Where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth, that 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?” Gilbert asked.
“She’s dilating,” he continued. “I’m asking if your bill allows that.”
“My bill would allow that, yes,” Tran affirmed.
Comments surrounding the bill became far more menacing in the days following when Governor Northam, during an address on WTOP’s “Ask The Governor” segment, said the response to Tran’s bill was “blown out of proportion.”
Explaining a potential situation the bill would influence, he said the following:
“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. 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 desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
In the two months since the bill was presented, pro-life advocates across the nation have become outraged, and multiple marches and rallies have set their sights on Virginia. In his “State of the Union” address, President Donald Trump even slammed Northam’s comments, reiterating that he would work to ensure protections for the unborn.
“To defend the dignity of every person,” President Trump charged lawmakers, “I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”
Although the “infanticide bill” was not expected to pass during this year’s session, it represents a progressive policy vision embraced by the leaders of Virginia’s Democratic Party, including Governor Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D), and Attorney General Mark Herring (D). Democrats have also reiterated that the aforementioned bill would become a priority if they regain majority in the General Assembly – just over seven months away from the 2019 statewide elections.