Va. Republican turns against proposed 15-week abortion ban

A Republican lawmaker in Virginia made a surprising claim Friday, saying she would not support legislation that calls for a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Doctors who violate the ban would be charged with a felony, though the bill would allow for exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.

Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant announced that she wanted an additional exception that would allow abortions up to 24 weeks in cases where fetuses have severe abnormalities.

“Without that exception I’m going to have to vote to ‘P.B.I.’ the bill,” Dunnavant said, using the initials for “pass by indefinitely,” meaning she wouldn’t be supporting the bill as written.

The bill’s sponsor from the state Capitol’s West Wing, Republican Sen. Stephen D. Newman, said he would not be open to the 24-week exception.

“I would rather just keep my bill the way it is,” Newman said. “I understand why she would like to do it, but I would just rather keep the bill for better or for worse just like it is.”

Dunnavant, an OB-GYN, talked in general terms about women who seek abortions.

“She is often faced with staggering situations and options,” Dunnavant said. “I really think this is a very hard place for law.”

Dunnavant’s remarks are bad news for Republicans who cannot afford to lose any votes on this issue in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats 22-18.

However, Republicans control the house of delegates with a 52-48 majority.

Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, has said that the bill “would hurt Virginians and put politicians where they don’t belong: in control of people’s private medical decisions.”

Lockhart said that it would “deny Virginians the fundamental right to control their own bodies, lives and futures.”

Newman has called it a “common-sense bill to say that if a child feels pain, we should protect him or her.”

Abortion is currently legal in Virginia through the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, which is about 26 weeks.

Pregnant mothers can still get an abortion in the third trimester, but they need three doctors to sign off, saying that their health is at risk.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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