FACT CHECK: Did Kathy Tran Do ‘Nothing To Change’ Virginia’s Late-Term Abortion Law?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Virginia Democratic Del. Kathy Tran claimed that she has done “nothing to change” Virginia’s law on late-term abortions.

“Right now, women are able to access an abortion in the later stages of pregnancy under certain conditions with the approval of medical doctors. I’ve done nothing to change that. What I have done is try to make sure that women are able to make these decisions and access these services in a timely manner,” she said in a video posted to Twitter Thursday.

Verdict: False

Tran sponsored a Virginia bill that would loosen requirements for third-trimester abortions. The bill would require one physician to certify that the pregnancy would result in the woman’s death or “impair” her mental or physical health, as opposed to current law, which requires three physicians to certify that the pregnancy would be deadly or “substantially and irremediably impair” her mental or physical health.

The delegate stated in a committee hearing that her bill would change the standard for late-term abortions.

Fact Check:

Tran posted the Twitter video in response to backlash over a bill she introduced in the Virginia General Assembly that would make abortions easier to access.

The bill’s provisions included the elimination of requirements that a woman get an ultrasound at least 24 hours before an abortion and that a second-trimester abortion be performed in a hospital.

Tran correctly noted that third-trimester abortions are currently legal in Virginia under certain circumstances. Under current law, three physicians must certify that the pregnancy would likely result in the death of the woman or “substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”

But while Tran said in her Twitter video that she has “done nothing to change” what’s allowed by current law – that abortions can be performed “in the later stages of pregnancy under certain conditions with the approval of medical doctors,” her bill included changes to third-trimester abortion requirements.

Virginia’s House Bill 2491 would lower the number of physicians who must certify that the abortion is necessary from three to one, and it would allow the physician to certify that the abortion is necessary if he or she thinks that pregnancy would “impair” the woman’s mental or physical health rather than “substantially and irremediably impair” the woman’s health. It maintained the requirement that a third-trimester abortion be performed in a hospital.

Virginia House Bill 2491, sponsored by Kathy Tran. (Screenshot/Virginia Legislative Information System)

Virginia House Bill 2491, sponsored by Kathy Tran. (Screenshot/Virginia Legislative Information System)

“This legislation radically expands the conditions in which a healthy unborn baby could be aborted, even up until the moment of birth – as Del. Tran confirmed when presenting the bill,” Denise Harle, legal counsel at the conservative and anti-abortion legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “It would allow a mother to end her pregnancy at any time if her physical or mental health may be ‘impaired,’ without any sign that the reason is serious.”

Tran stated in a committee hearing Monday that her bill would change the standard for late-term abortions.

“You are changing the standard under which the judgment call is made … for a – an abortion at any point in the third trimester. You’re changing the standard for that,” Republican Del. Todd Gilbert said to Tran.

“I’m changing the standard, yes,” Tran responded.

Tran also said at the hearing that her bill would theoretically allow abortions up to moments before birth if a physician thought that the woman’s mental health was impaired.

“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? She’s dilating,” Gilbert asked Tran.

“Mr. Chairman, that would be a, you know, a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at that point,” Tran said.

“I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that,” Gilbert responded.

“My bill would allow that, yes,” Tran said.

Tran told The Washington Post Thursday that she misspoke during the committee hearing. “I should have said: ‘Clearly, no, because infanticide is not allowed in Virginia, and what would have happened in that moment would be a live birth.'”

Pro-abortion groups Planned Parenthood Action and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia downplayed the third-trimester changes in Tran’s bill.

“This bill doesn’t change the circumstances under which a pregnant person can obtain an abortion later in pregnancy, it changes the burdensome requirement to access a termination,” Planned Parenthood Action said in a tweet Thursday. “A later pregnancy could put a woman’s health or life at grave risk. Currently, Virginia requires her to see *three separate doctors* to evaluate & certify a termination is necessary. There’s no medical reason for that. It’s onerous and unnecessary,” it said in another tweet.

“VA has a 3rd trimester abortion ban except in cases where a woman’s life or health is in imminent danger. #HB2491 simply removes the unnecessary requirement that 2 additional physicians certify the needed & timely procedure that could save a woman’s life,” NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia said in a tweet Wednesday.

While third-trimester abortions are technically legal in Virginia, they are not common. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that there were not any third-trimester abortions in Virginia in 2016, 2017 or 2018, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Tran’s bill was tabled in committee. Similar measures have failed in the Virginia legislature in previous years, and a companion bill in the Virginia Senate also died in January.

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins suggested that Tran may have said that she did “nothing to change” the late-term abortion law because her bill had been tabled.

“The only reason that Delegate Tran has ‘done nothing to change that’ is because her bill failed, but let’s be clear that the purpose of the bill was to make it easier to kill viable babies by lowering the requirements,” Hawkins told TheDCNF in an email. She called Tran’s statement “a technicality, not a defense.”

Tran did not respond to a request for comment.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter