Following a week of national outrage, two prominent pro-choice Democrats, former Governor Terry McAuliffe and US Senator Tim Kaine, are distancing themselves from Virginia’s controversial abortion bill submitted by Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Springfield), which drew widespread condemnation after Tran said on tape the bill would allow virtually unrestricted abortion in the third trimester, up until the moment of birth.
In a Sunday morning CNN interview, McAuliffe distanced himself from the legislation, responding “absolutely not” when host Jake Tapper asked the potential presidential candidate if he supported it.
“Where we come from, it’s ‘life of the mother’ in the last trimester,” said McAuliffe.
“I do not support that legislation, nor does Ralph,” he continued, falsely stating that Governor Northam did not support Tran’s “Repeal Act.”
Northam voiced public support for the abortion bill at a January 17th press conference, held with Tran and several pro-abortion groups backing the measure. At the event, Northam received praise from Tarina Keene, executive director of NARL Pro-Choice Virginia, who thanked the governor for making the legislation a priority of his administration.
“As you know, I do support the repeal bill,” said Northam, before later urging Virginians to elect a Democratic majority, to pass the bill next year.
Joining McAuliffe in denouncing Tran’s late term abortion bill was Tim Kaine, one of the two United States Senators representing the Commonwealth.
“I support the existing Virginia law, which has been in place since the mid-’70s, and it puts conditions upon a third-trimester abortion,” said Kaine, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I support the existing law, not the Tran bill. I don’t think the existing law needs to be changed.”
As Virginia’s governor and later senator, Kaine had a pro-choice voting record.
As governor, McAuliffe was also favorably inclined towards abortion rights, which he noted in his CNN interview. During his 2013 campaign, McAuliffe received $1,689,519 from Planned Parenthood and affiliates, according to campaign finance reports compiled by VPAP.
McAuliffe and Kaine’s distancing reinforce a frequent criticism from Republican leaders, that the public outrage over the bill is genuinely against a measure which voters feel goes too far.
According polling conducted by Gallup from May 1-10, 2018, only 13% of Americans support legislation allowing unrestricted abortion until the moment of birth, as Tran’s bill proposed.
Gallup’s findings mirror results from a January 2019 Marist survey, which found only 15% of adults in support of Tran’s position, allowing virtually unrestricted abortion at any point during a pregnancy.
Already, public reaction to the bill has been swift, drawing condemnation even from many pro-choice voters who, like McAuliffe and Kaine, support legal abortion, but not late term abortion all the way through 40 weeks of pregnancy.
That outrage pushed one of the bill’s 22 Democratic co-sponsors, pro-choice Delegate Dawn Adams (D-Henrico), to withdraw her support.
After the controversy broke, Adams wrote in a letter to constituents that he hadn’t fully read the bill before signing on to it, saying she “did not exercise due diligence,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I made a mistake, and all I know to do is to admit it, tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may,” read Adams’ letter.
In the Virginia House on Friday, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) asked the 20 House Democratic co-sponsors where they stood on the legislation, noting they still have time to withdraw their support, on an issue which could prove important in the upcoming fall elections.
“It is now Friday,” said Bell. “I would encourage all of my friends to take this chance to not let this week end without making it crystal clear where you stand on this law that we now all understand what it says.”
“If you’re a co-patron and wish to get off, you still can. You can walk down the aisle, talk to Mr. Nardo, and he will take you off as a co-patron of the bill.”
As of Sunday morning, Virginia’s legislative information system showed that none of the co-patrons had withdrawn their sponsorship of the bill.