Republican challenger Kelly McGinn is sending mailers saying Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, backed controversial legislation early this year that would have eased Virginia’s abortion laws.
"Diane Roem supported a controversial bill that would have allowed abortion up until the moment of birth," the mailer says.
Roem says the claim is untrue, so we fact-checked it.
McGinn cites as evidence an unsuccessful bill introduced in January 2019 by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax. It would have removed a requirement that women undergo an ultrasound and be presented with materials on fetal development and adoption before an abortion. It would have eliminated a mandate that second-term abortions be performed in hospitals.
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 The "substantial and irremediable" test would have been repealed.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. Many Republicans claim the bill shows that Democrats - as McGinn says - support "abortion to the time of birth."
But Roem, as first reported by the Prince William Times, has no direct connection to the bill. She was not among 21 Democratic cosponsors of the legislation and she was not a member of a House subcommittee that killed the measure on a partisan 5-3 vote. Roem never voted on the bill. We found no record of her endorsing the bill. Roem says that’s because she never did.
Why does McGinn say she supported it? Zac Obermiller, McGinn’s campaign manager, told us the campaign made what it thinks is a safe assumption. "The McGinn campaign has simply taken Del. Roem at her word regarding her heretofore unqualified and full-throated support for abortion rights throughout all nine months," he wrote in an email.
Obermiller noted that Roem is among 40 legislators endorsed in August by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia for having "a 100% voting record in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights." He also noted that Roem has received $12,000 in campaign contributions since 2017 from Emily’s List, a pro-abortion rights PAC, according to records of the Virginia Public Access Project.
But Roem told us told us she would have voted against Tran’s bill if she’d had a chance because, when she went back to her district after the measure died, voters told her they disliked the legislation. "That’s what you do as a legislator; you represent your constituents," she said.
Obermiller said Roem is being disingenuous. "The bottom line is that Delegate Roem wants to have her cake and eat it too," he said.
McGinn says Roem "supported a controversial bill that would have allowed abortion up until the moment of birth."
No question, Roem is a strong supporter of abortion rights and is backed by pro-abortion rights interest groups. But she did not have an opportunity to vote on the controversial bill McGinn cites and was not among 21 Democratic co-sponsors of the measure. McGinn offers no evidence Roem was backed the bill and says it’s safe to assume that she would have voted for it. Roem says she would have opposed it based on feedback from her constituents.
There’s plenty for the candidates to debate on abortion. But McGinn doesn’t get to make up a convenient record for her opponent.
We rate McGinn’s statement False.
Kelly McGinn, campaign mailer, Sept. 20, 2019.
Interview and email from Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, Oct. 3, 2019.
Legislative Information System, HB2491, 2019 session.
Prince William Times, "McGinn mailer accuses Roem of backing abortion bill," Oct. 3, 2019.
Emails from Kathryn Gilley, communications director for Virginia House Democrats, Sept. 20, Sept. 24 and Oct. 3, 2019.
Email from Zac Obermiller, campaign manager for Kelly McGinn, Oct. 4, 2019.
Blue Virginia, "Planned Parenthood of Advocates of Virginia endorses 40 reproductive healthcare champions for Senate and House of Delegates," Aug. 14, 2019.
Emily’s List, "Our Mission," accessed Oct. 5, 2019.
Virginia Public Access Project, Emily’s List, accessed Oct. 5, 2019.
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