Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske May 17, 2019

Del. Bob Thomas misstates provision in Virginia abortion bill

During a recent radio interview, Del. Bob Thomas, R-Stafford, predicted abortion will be a major issue this fall when all 140 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot.

He said Republicans need to campaign on a failed bill introduced by a Democratic legislator winter this that would have repealed some of Virginia’s abortion restrictions. Thomas said the laws "safeguard" against third-term abortions in Virginia, where two have been performed in the last 17 years, according to the state Department of Health.

Talk show host John Fredericks, during the May 8 interview, asked Thomas to identify the "safeguards" the bill would have removed.

"One: The woman has a right to talk to the doctor who’s going to perform the abortion, and (Democrats) wanted to strip that out," Thomas said.

There’s been a lot of partisan debate on this bill, but we hadn’t heard anyone say it would have deprived a woman of the her right to talk to the physician who was going to carry out her abortion. We wondered if Thomas was right.

Thomas was referring to a bill introduced by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax. It would have repealed hospital building codes for abortion clinics and ended requirements that a fetal ultrasound be performed and offered to the woman at least 24 hours before her abortion.

Most of the debate, however, focused on the bill’s provisions for rare third-trimester abortions, which are allowed if three physicians certify that a continued pregnancy would "likely" kill a woman or "substantially and irremediably" impair her mental or physical health.

The legislation would have lowered the threshold from three physicians to one. That doctor would only have to certify that the pregnancy would damage a woman’s health. The "substantial and irremediable" test would have been repealed.

Tran, under tough questioning by Republicans during a Jan. 29 hearing, acknowledged that her bill would allow an abortion when a mother is dilating. In a year when partisan control of both General Assembly chambers is up for grabs, Republicans are planning to use the bill and Tran’s statement to argue that Democrats support abortion until almost the time of birth.

We asked Thomas to back his claim that the bill also would have rescinded a woman’s "right to talk to the doctor who’s going to perform the abortion." He pointed to a section that would have repealed requirements that the woman undergo an ultrasound and be presented with information about the benefits, risks and alternatives to having an abortion.

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Among the laws that would been erased was, "An offer for the woman to speak with the physician who is to perform the abortion so that he may answer any questions that the woman may have and provide further information concerning the procedures and protocols."

Upon questioning, Thomas acknowledged that his statement was imprecise, and that woman’s - or a man’s - right to find a physician who will speak to her wouldn’t have been curtailed. He said his concern is, without the offer, many women wouldn’t ask to speak beforehand to the doctor performing the abortion.

"My speculation is that it’s very scary time wrought with emotion and you might not think you have the options you have," he said.

"Everyone wants these women to make the most informed decision they can," Thomas added.

Our ruling

Thomas said a Virginia woman "has the right to talk to the doctor who’s going to perform the abortion and (Democrats) wanted to strip that out."

He’s referring to a failed bill that would have repealed many abortion laws, including a requirement that a woman be offered an opportunity to talk beforehand with the physician who will perform the procedure. The legislation was sponsored by a Democrat.

The bill would not have tinkered with a woman’s right to choose a doctor who would speak to her before performing an abortion. It would have simply removed a requirement that she be offered an opportunity to speak to the physician before the procedure. There’s a big difference between those two provisions.

We rate Thomas’ statement Mostly False.

EDITOR'S NOTE, May 17, 2019: Due to a production error, this article was initially posted with a logo indicating Mostly True, even though the statement was rated Mostly False, as the story itself correctly noted. We have updated the logo to match the ruling.

Our Sources

Del. Bob Thomas, Radio interview on The John Frederick Show, May 8, 2019 (3:44 mark).

.Interview with Thomas, May 10, 2019.

Legislative Information System, HB2491, accessed May 10, 2019.

Code of Virginia, § 18.2-74, accessed May 10, 2019.

Email from Maribeth Brewster, communications director, Virginia Department of Health, May 10. 2019.

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Del. Bob Thomas misstates provision in Virginia abortion bill

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