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“A bill to remove abortion restrictions in Virginia was always going to be controversial. But a contentious committee hearing, and some confusing comments by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, have turned debate over the bill into a nationwide furor.
Virginia House Bill 2491 would roll back a number of requirements, including a 24-hour waiting period and a mandate that second-trimester abortions take place in a hospital. Always something of a long shot in the Republican-controlled state legislature, the bill may now be doomed by the national firestorm surrounding it.
The controversy has centered on a provision concerning third-trimester abortions. Under current Virginia law, in order for a patient to terminate a pregnancy in the third trimester, three doctors must certify that continuing the pregnancy would likely cause the patient’s death or “substantially and irremediably impair” her mental or physical health. The new bill would reduce the number of doctors to one, and remove the “substantially and irremediably” qualifier — abortions would be allowed in cases where a mother’s mental or physical health is threatened, even if the damage might not be irreversible.
The bill began inspiring outcry among abortion opponents nationwide after its sponsor, Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran, said in a committee hearing on Monday that it would technically allow abortion until the point of birth, if a doctor agreed it was necessary.”
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