Virginia’s elections Tuesday will determine the near-term future of laws protecting the unborn, as all seats are up for re-election in the Commonwealth.
Last legislative session, Democrats favored a radical late-term abortion law, mirroring New York’s Reproductive Health Act, which would remove the requirement for a licensed physician to conduct an abortion and permit abortion until birth.
Introduced by Del. Kathy Tran (D- Springfield), House Bill 2491 sought to remove basic safety and consent measures from the abortion process in Virginia and would have allowed abortions until a baby’s birth.
“The science is clear,” says John Seeds, an MD and retired dean of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Once the sperm has united with the egg you have a new, unique, clearly human life. Human ‘intellectual’ redefinition of the value of that life to justify destroying it are self-deceptions, not science. To place human civil or legal ‘rights’ above the natural right to life is on its face a spiritual error with destructive cultural consequences evident everywhere.”
Abortion Is Never Medically Necessary
The majority of Virginians polled favor abortion if the mother’s life is at stake. Yet medical experts say there is never a medical necessity to perform abortion. Other, better measures are available to address serious pregnancy complications. Emberli Little is a registered nurse in Newport News who specializes in maternal and newborn care.
“I listened very closely when the bill in New York was on the table,” Little said. “There is a huge, huge muddling of the definition of ‘after viability.’ I cannot come up with a time when abortion would be medically necessary. Induction, yes. Abortion, no. I think those in favor of the bill were trying to word it in a way that made it sound like abortion was medically necessary for maternal health.”
Similar language was present in the Virginia bill.
“We save mothers’ lives all the time by inducing delivery and coming out with a then healthy child,” Little said. “I can’t come up with any reason or any time where I’ve seen where an actual abortion or terminating the life weeks after viability would be necessary to save the life of the mother.”
Unsafe and Irresponsible Proposals
Virginia Democrats’ favored abortion bill would also remove basic safety parameters for abortions conducted in the state, according to several prenatal care professionals. Language in the bill would eliminate “the requirement that an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy and prior to the third trimester be performed in a hospital.”
Abortion is an inherently high-risk procedure, and one most OB-GYNs do not perform, said Elizabeth Lunsford, an OB-GYN at Riverside Partners in Women’s Health in Gloucester.
“I see no medical reason why an abortion would be safer than just a delivery in any situation,” Lunsford said. “Infection, intrauterine adhesions affecting future fertility, and the need for transfusion after abortion, are things that potentially can happen” if mothers are given abortion instead of delivery during a crisis.
A C-section is both safer and faster than a partial-birth abortion for a mother if the mother’s life is at risk in the third trimester, Lunsford said. In fact, the farther along an unborn child is, the greater the threat to the mother if an abortion is performed, said Seeds, whose special medical focus was ultrasound and prenatal diagnosis, with a subspecialty in maternal-fetal medicine.
“Hemorrhage or damage to the uterus or retention of parts of the pregnancy are more likely with a larger fetus,” Seeds said. “Hemorrhage that requires blood banking services to provide transfusion, or damage to the uterus that might require surgical intervention in an operating room. The time required to assess the complication and move the patient to a hospital can result in a threat to life.”
This is why Virginia’s current laws require abortions performed after the unborn child’s first trimester to be done in hospitals, Seeds said. “This requirement seems obvious,” he said, since the state has a strong interest in the health and lives of its citizens.
Why Ultrasounds Are Good for Women’s Health
House Bill 2491 would also eliminate, “all the procedures and processes, including the performance of an ultrasound, required to effect a woman’s informed written consent to the performance of an abortion; however, the bill does not change the requirement that a woman’s informed written consent be first obtained.”
Doing an ultrasound before an abortion is “a fundamental safety requirement,” Seeds said, because it gives an accurate age and size of the baby, the number present, and confirms the child is alive. This is crucial for the mother’s safety because “there are examples in the Board of Medicine records of gross error in the gestational age at abortion resulting in life-threatening complications.”
Viewing an ultrasound is a current Virginia requirement because it also furthers the goal of informed consent, Seeds said.
“Seeing her baby might change [a potentially abortive mother’s] viewpoint and cause her to reconsider her decision,” he said. “This is the fundamental right under informed consent that the abortion lobby wants to hide.”
Laws that push abortions also violate the conscience rights and best professional judgment of medical personnel who believe abortions are not the best option for either mother or baby. If asked to do an abortion on the job, “I would have to leave because I wouldn’t agree to do [an abortion] and it would be negligent if I accepted the patient and refused to do the procedure. I can’t see any of the providers I work with participating,” Little said.
Allowing Conflicts of Interest for Abortionists
Language in HB 2491 would eliminate “the requirement that two other physicians certify that a third trimester abortion is necessary to prevent the woman’s death or impairment of her mental or physical health, as well as the need to find that any such impairment to the woman’s health would be substantial and irremediable.”
This is an important restriction because it helps mitigate an abortionist’s conflict of interest between the patient’s true needs and the reality that the abortionist profits from the procedure, Seeds noted. So, requiring two independent doctors to confirm the recommendation of abortion protects the patient.
Tran’s proposed abortion legislation also “removes language classifying facilities that perform five or more first-trimester abortions per month as hospitals for the purpose of complying with regulations establishing minimum standards for hospitals.”
“This would gut the Virginia Abortion Clinic Safety Regulations,” Seeds said. “These fundamental safety regulations and inspection requirements subject abortion clinics to basic standards of cleanliness, drug safety, complication management, and record keeping. Eliminating these safety standards significantly increases the risk to the patient.”
Worse Care Allowed for the Sake of Money
The push for allowing non-physicians to perform abortions is at least partially a response to the fact that abortions are declining, and so are the number of doctors willing to perform abortions, Seeds said. Yet this places patients at further risk, Little said, because “Seeing someone without any medical degree or education, you are more likely to end up with severe infection or severe damage [affecting your ability] to conceive or carry a pregnancy again.”
Fewer doctors performing abortions hasn’t halted big abortion providers, and states that allow non-physician abortions are thinking more about money than women, Seeds said: “Many state legislatures more than willing to allow non-physicians to perform abortions when Planned Parenthood funnels millions of dollars to their campaign funds. It’s not an elegant or noble process.”
In opposition to abortion legislation, the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is supported by every one of Virginia’s Republican delegates.
“Voters need to take a hard look at what it is they are supporting,” said Michelle Stroud Johnson, a registered nurse in the Commonwealth with a background in postpartum mother and newborn care. “If abortion laws continue on the current trajectory and late-term abortions become the norm, I would rather leave the health-care profession than ever participate in taking innocent lives. Many nurses I know feel the same way. We are nurses because we have hearts of compassion. We know from caring for newborn babies that they have an innate will to live and deserve the chance to do just that.”