“I did not wake up this morning to stand,” said Delegate Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg) on his third point of personal privilege on the House floor in 10 years as a legislator in the Virginia legislature. After Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) gave a rare, highly-emotional speech about reaffirming his promise to fight to protect the lives of unborn children, Delegate Garrett has a personal story of his own.
Wednesday was soul-stirring day on Bank Street. Just one day before, a Democratic legislator made headlines for her speech about a bill she introduced that would lead the Commonwealth towards the ways of New York in repealing restrictions on abortion, including terminations up until the moment of birth.
H.B. 2491, patroned by Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Springfield), would repeal restrictions on third trimester abortions, allowing 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.
The response from legislators in the 24 hours since has been gripping, poignant, and emotional.
“As you all know, I’m a trauma surgeon,” Garrett said. “In 1980, almost 40 years ago, I started my education and training.”
“I have literally seen everything that can be done by a human to another human. I’ve seen men and women shot, stabbed, brutally murdered, raped, mutilated, acid thrown into their face. I’ve seen people strangled to death, and I’ve taken care of a lot of those folks,” the delegate explained.
“I have never, in 62 years on this Earth…the bill that was before us…” Garrett said has he attempted to collect his emotions in an almost silent House of Delegates.
“Mr. Speaker,” he continued, “let me tell you the story of Billy.
“In 1988, as a chief resident of pediatric surgery at the University of Florida, Billy was born at 24 weeks,” Garrett said.
“He had a hole in his heart. He had a connection between his windpipe and his esophagus, so whenever he swallowed, he was drowning himself. And he had 37 segments of his small intestine that were completely blocked.”
“I operated on that boy for 18 hours,” the delegate explained. “With the help of an amazing team, and these two hands the good Lord gave me, sir, we fixed the hole in that little boy’s heart. We closed the connection so that he could breathe normally. And I removed 37 segments of that little boy’s intestine so that intestinal function could normalize.”
“That was 31 years ago, Mr. Speaker,” Garrett said.
Then, the Lynchburg Republican legislator began another story – one that hit him closer to home.
“A lady in my district, a constituent of mine,” Garrett continued, “16 years ago, 35 years old, she became pregnant. If you’re going to deliver at 36 years or older, you are deemed to be at high risk.”
“We didn’t have a high-risk OB doctor in Lynchburg,” Garrett said, explaining on the floor of the House that they had to travel to Charlottesville’s University of Virginia medical center for care.
“The standard of care then…was to do an ultrasound of the baby, of the developing fetus, and they measure the fat pad at the base of the back of the neck, and they’re looking for one number – three millimeters,” he added.
“Three millimeters,” he said again.
“If that fat pad is thicker than three millimeters, Mr. Speaker, she was told that there was a higher than 80 percent chance that that baby would be born with neurologic deficits.
“Three millimeters, Mr. Speaker,” Garrett said gain.
“That was 16 years ago.”
Clenching his emotions, he stated, “My 16-year-old son is a good boy, Mr. Speaker. He’s a good student.”
“Many of you all met him three years ago when he was a Senate page. He’s a wonderful athlete.”
“He makes his father and his mother proud,” he told the 99 other delegates.
“And for three millimeters,” Garrett continued, “someone would have taken the life of my son.”
“Mr. Speaker, I’m not going to let anyone take the life of my son, and I’m not going to vote to allow other people to take the lives of other people’s sons.”