A new bill proposed in the Virginia legislature would loosen restrictions on abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy, and allow abortions during the second trimester to take place outside hospitals.
Under current Virginia law, abortions during the third trimester require a determination by a doctor and two consulting physicians that continuing the pregnancy would likely result in the woman's death or "substantially and irremediably" impair her mental or physical health.
The bill, proposed in the Virginia House of Delegates by Democrat Kathy Tran, would require only one doctor to make the determination that the pregnancy threatens the woman's life or health. The proposed legislation would also eliminate the requirement that abortions during the second trimester be performed in a state-licensed hospital.
Republicans narrowly control the House of Delegates, so the bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon. A subcommittee voted to table the bill in a 5-3 vote Monday.
Proponents of the Virginia legislation argue the bill, which is similar to a law recently passed in New York, is needed to protect women's health. But opponents argue late-term abortions are rarely medically necessary, and the Virginia bill has provoked a swift backlash from conservatives.
"Heartbreaking... This isn't in New York, this isn't in California, this happened just this week right here in Virginia," the Virginia House of Delegates GOP Caucus tweeted Monday.
A majority of Americans (60 percent) believe abortion should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy, but that number plummets to just 13 percent for abortions during the third trimester, according to a Gallup poll from May 2018.
At a recent committee hearing, Republican state delegate Todd Gilbert asked Tran to clarify exactly how late in a pregnancy doctors would be able to perform abortions. Gilbert asked if a woman who was about to give birth could request an abortion under Tran's proposed bill.
"She has physical signs that she is about to give birth. Would that be a point at which she could still request an abortion if she is so certified? She's dilating," Gilbert said.
"Mr. Chairman, that would be a, you know, a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at this point," Tran responded.
"I understand that. I'm asking if your bill allows that," Gilbert posed.
"My bill would allow that, yes," she said.