Virginia Lawmaker Apologizes for Co-Sponsoring Abortion Bill Without Reading It

February 2, 2019 Updated: February 3, 2019

Virginia Democratic state legislator Dawn Adams said she’s sorry for lapsing on her due diligence and not reading a proposed abortion bill closely enough before she co-sponsored the measure.

“You know that I do my best to read and research every bill I vote on,” she said in a Jan. 30 newsletter to her constituents. “But I did not read a bill I agreed to co-patron and that wasn’t smart or typical. I will work harder and be better for it.”

The bill, proposed by Virginia Democrat state lawmaker Kathy Tran, caused a backlash after she acknowledged it would allow abortions up to the point of birth if having the baby would endanger the mother’s mental health. The bill failed to make it out of legislative committee.

“I vaguely remember signing on to this,” Adams said. “And I did this in solidarity with my colleague and as a symbolic gesture for a woman’s right to choose.”

She explained that she thought the bill only reversed what she called “onerous additions to the code made in 2012,” known as the Virginia ultrasound bill.

While Tran’s bill did that, “it sought to do much more,” Adams said. It would have ended the requirement for two extra doctors to approve the abortion, and remove the words “substantially and irremediably” from the law.

When the pushback came, Adams reconsidered.

“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,” she said. She added further in the statement, “I am sorry that I did not exercise due diligence before this explosion of attention; had I done so, I would not have co-patroned [the bill].”

Abortion Pushed to the Forefront

While Tran’s bill galvanized the abortion issue in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, added to the backlash when he appeared to say during a radio interview that a woman could have a baby and then decide whether to kill it or not.

“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired,” he said. “And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Northam later released a statement in response to the backlash but it seemed to confirm what he said, only restricting the option to killing newborns with “severe fetal abnormalities” or those that doctors deemed “nonviable.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in Sterling
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in Sterling, Va., on Oct. 30, 2018. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Virginia affiliate of Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider, contributed some $3 million to help elect Northam.

A law similar to the one Tran proposed—allowing abortion to the point of birth if “necessary to protect” the woman’s health—was recently passed in New York, sparking controversy there. A similar measure has been on books in California for years.

Since 2009, the law in Virginia has allowed women in their third trimester to choose to abort their pregnancy right up to the moments before birth but only if three doctors certify that continuing with the pregnancy was likely to kill the woman or “substantially and irremediably” impair the woman’s mental or physical health.

Prevalence of Late Abortions

Only 28 percent of Americans think abortion should generally be legal after the first trimester and the support drops to 13 percent for third-trimester abortions, according to Gallup.

Still, about one in nine abortions happens in the second trimester or later, according to the left-leaning Guttmacher Institute.

There doesn’t seem to be any comprehensive data for third-trimester abortions, though anecdotal evidence suggests they do happen.

NTD reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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