Video of Virginia lawmakers debating abortion goes viral

Posted at 11:53 AM, Jan 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-30 23:32:57-05

RICHMOND, Va. - Video of a debate about an abortion bill between Virginia lawmakers has gone viral, with nearly two million views as of Wednesday morning.

Virginia Republicans posted the clip to Twitter, calling it "heartbreaking."

The encounter came as Del. Kathy Tran (D-Springfield) answered questions from Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) about her bill HB-2491 during a subcommittee hearing. The bill sought to lessen some state restrictions on abortion.

"Where it's obvious that a woman is about to give birth, that she has physical signs that she's about to give birth -- would that still be a point at which she could request an abortion if she was so certified? She's dilating," Gilbert asked Tran.

"Mr. Chairman, that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at that point," Tran responded.

"I understand that. I'm asking if your bill allows that," Gilbert then said.

"My bill would allow that, yes," Tran answered.

The bill did not advance out of the subcommittee.

Republicans pounced on the clip. Former United Nations Secretary Nikki Haley retweeted the video, saying it "literally makes me sick to my stomach."

In the aftermath, it appeared Tran deleted her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

"We need to trust women to make their own healthcare decisions," Tran said in a statement on Wednesday. "These decisions are personal and private, and they are made in consultation with doctors who are using their best medical judgement. I regret that these partisan games have taken the focus away from where it should be: on the Virginian women who have asked for this bill to get politicians out of their private medical decisions."

Two Hampton Roads lawmakers sponsored the bill, including Del. Cheryl Turpin (D-Virginia Beach) and Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk). Neither responded to requests for comment.

Gov. Ralph Northam was asked about the controversy during an appearance on WTOP Radio on Wednesday. Northam, himself a doctor, said a late-term abortion is only done with the consent of the mother and physicians and in cases with severe medical issues.

"This particular example if a mother was in labor I'll tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and family desired," he said.

Amid more backlash to those comments, Northam's office later said he was only referring to a circumstance like a "nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities."

"Attempts to extrapolate these comments otherwise is in bad faith and underscores exactly why the governor believes physicians and women, not legislators, should make these difficult and deeply personal medical decisions," the statement continued.