A campaign mailer issued by Republican candidate Kelly McGinn claims her opponent, incumbent Del. Danica Roem, supported a contentious abortion bill killed in the General Assembly earlier this year, a claim Roem denies.
The mailer, which was sent out last week, said Roem, D-13th, “supported a controversial bill that would allow for late-term abortions up until the moment of birth.”
The bill in question, which was sponsored by Del. Kathy Tran, D-42nd, of Fairfax County, would have reduced from three to one the number of doctors required to sign off on a late-term abortion. Virginia law already allows for third-trimester abortions if three physicians agree a pregnant woman’s mental or physical health is at risk.
The bill was killed in a House subcommittee along party lines in January.
Roem, an avowed pro-choice lawmaker elected in 2017, is not listed as a sponsor or co-sponsor of the bill and said she did not express support for the measure when it was presented in the House.
“What we are dealing with goes way beyond the merits of the legislation. You can’t just make up stuff and expect voters to buy it,” Roem said of the mailer.
Roem did not sponsor or co-sponsor any abortion legislation in 2019. Asked if she would vote for the bill if it reached the House floor in 2020, Roem said she would ask Democratic leadership to “focus on other issues,” but did not initially say how she would vote on the bill.
After this article was printed, Roem clarified that she would not vote for such a bill if it resurfaced in the General Assembly.
Roem said her voting record and political philosophy are pro-choice, but that her main priority as a legislator is fixing transportation issues in her district, especially traffic-plagued Va. 28, which traverses the counties of Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William and Fauquier.
Roem received $12,000 in contributions from Emily’s List in 2019. The organization’s stated mission is to “elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.” Roem was also one of 40 incumbent Virginia lawmakers endorsed in 2019 by Planned Parenthood for maintaining “a 100% voting record in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
McGinn campaign manager Zac Obermiller defended the campaign’s claims and asked, if Roem, “was prepared to go on the record opposing the Tran bill and willing to promise not to support it if re-elected to a second term as delegate.”
“Is Danica Roem really asking us to believe that had the Kathy Tran bill come to the floor she would not have voted for it?” Obermiller said.
Tran’s bill caused an uproar in February after a video emerged of Tran fielding questions about the bill from House Majority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-15th. In the video, Gilbert asks if the bill would allow an abortion while in labor, and Tran responded saying the bill “would allow that.”
Tran said afterward that she misspoke. The scandal snowballed when Gov. Ralph Northam (D) weighed in during a radio interview. The procedures, Northam said in the WTOP interview, are “done in cases where there may be severe deformities.”
“There may be a fetus that’s not viable. So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated, if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” Northam said during the interview.
Republicans seized on Northam’s words, bringing national attention to the bill and even drawing the ire of President Donald Trump (R) who said from the Oval Office that he “thought it was terrible.”
“Do you remember when I said Hillary Clinton was willing to rip the baby out of the womb? That’s what it is, that’s what they’re doing, it’s terrible,” Trump said.
At the time, Northam’s spokesperson said his words were taken out of context. Northam himself called the notion that he would condone killing babies “disgusting.”
“I have devoted my life to caring for children, and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting,” Northam said in response to the controversy.
Reach Daniel Berti at firstname.lastname@example.org