A Democratic co-sponsor of a controversial Virginia bill that would repeal restrictions on third-trimester abortions is apologizing to her constituents for supporting the legislation, saying she didn’t read the bill or know how far it went.
The backpedal comes as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is defending himself amid fierce criticism that he suggested a child could be killed after birth in remarks a day earlier about the same legislation. And Virginia Democratic Del. Kathy Tran, the primary sponsor, released a video Thursday standing by the bill.
But in an email to her constituents on Wednesday, Del. Dawn Adams of Richmond said she didn’t fully understand the bill when she signed on to it as a co-sponsor.
“By now you have heard about the abortion bill, or seen the video,” Adams said in the email. “I vaguely remember signing on to this, and I did this in solidarity with my colleague and as a symbolic gesture for a woman’s right to choose.”
Adams said she didn’t know what was in the legislation before adding her name to it. “I did not read a bill I agreed to co-patron and that wasn’t smart or typical. I will work harder and be better for it.”
She added: “I am sorry that I did not exercise due diligence before this explosion of attention; had I done so, I would not have co-patroned.” Adams said she thought it only reversed “onerous” abortion regulations implemented by Republicans in 2012, and didn’t realize it “sought to do much more.”
The email was first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The bill – which was tabled in committee earlier this week – would remove a number of restrictions currently in place regarding late-term abortions, including doing away with the requirement that three physicians certify a third-trimester abortion is necessary to prevent the woman's death or impairment of her mental or physical health. The third trimester lasts until 40 weeks.
Tran sparked outrage from conservatives this week when she was asked at a hearing if a woman about to give birth and dilating could still request an abortion.
“My bill would allow that, yes,” she said.
Tran released a video on social media on Thursday saying she “was really surprised by the line of questioning that I got” in the hearing.
“I want to be very clear about what’s currently allowed in Virginia law,” Tran said. “Right now women are able to access an abortion in the later stages of pregnancy under certain conditions with the approval of medical doctors. I’ve done nothing to change that. What I have done is try to make sure that women are able to make these decisions and access these services in a timely manner.”
Meanwhile, Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia who supports the bill, refused to back down from comments that have sparked outrage. "I have devoted my life to caring for children and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting," Northam tweeted.
But Republicans aren’t buying his defense.
“What’s shameful is that you're too cowardly to say point blank that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said in a statement Thursday. “You could have said that yesterday. But because you’re terrified of an extremist pro-abortion lobby that now defends even infanticide, you're still ducking."
Northam’s troubles began Wednesday when he appeared on WTOP to discuss The Repeal Act.
Northam, a former pediatric neurologist, was asked about the sponsor's comments and said he couldn’t speak for Tran, but said that third-trimester abortions are done with “the consent of obviously the mother, with consent of the physician, multiple physicians by the way, and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities or there may be a fetus that’s not viable.”
“So in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered,” Northam said. “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.”
The intent of his comments was not clear. But some conservative commentators and lawmakers took his remarks to mean he was discussing the possibility of letting a newborn die — even "infanticide."
“These VA & NY late-term abortion bills should be a call to action for all Americans," Vice President Pence tweeted Thursday. “It would be unconscionable for us to let this moment pass in silence. We must recommit ourselves to restoring the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”
The effort in Virginia follows New York passing a bill last week loosening restrictions on abortion, as New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington also pass new laws expanding abortion access or move to strip old laws from the books that limit abortions.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week directed the One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink Tuesday to celebrate the passage of "Reproductive Health Act." Under that legislation, non-doctors are now allowed to conduct abortions and the procedure could be done until the mother's due date if the woman's health is endangered or if the fetus is not viable.
The previous law only allowed abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if a woman's life was at risk.
Fox News' Mike Emanuel and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.