The failed Virginia abortion bill and why it matters

By: Matthew Pipkin, Columnist

It has been a general practice of mine to avoid the abortion debate. It is a messy fiasco; often full of hypocrites on both sides that rely on emotional appeal to demean the other side as being cold-hearted. As a practicing Catholic, I do consider myself pro-life. However, I do recognize that there is some grey area in cases where abortion is an unfortunate but warranted option, and I can only pray that people use this practice strictly when necessary. I also recognize that this interpretation of the law has been settled in the Supreme Court, and so I believe my energy is better spent promoting life in discussions rather than calling for an abolishment of abortion altogether.

With that said, I must admit that I was startled to read the news about Virginia House Bill 2491. While there were multiple areas within the text of the bill that I disagreed with, there was one portion that stood high above the rest as being most problematic. Under current Virginian law, you may receive an abortion in the third trimester of the pregnancy if three doctors were to find threats to the mother that would lead to death or “substantial and irremediable” impairment to a woman’s mental and physical health.

To quote the bill summary, it states The bill eliminates the requirement that two other physicians certify that a third trimester abortion is necessary …as well as the need to find that any such impairment to the woman’s health would be substantial and irremediable.” The language of this bill, seemingly accepted by many in the Democratic Party, is both porous and would have been a step to allowing abortion to be nearly on-demand, at any time and for any given reason.

Don’t believe me? Let’s use depression as an example. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, depression affects between 14-23 percent of women at some point during their pregnancy. The National Institute of Mental Health also claims that “major depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities.” So, based on the logic stated above, if a mother were to claim that she is depressed in the third trimester to the point of impairment, she could hypothetically get an abortion up to the point of birth if a single doctor deemed it so.

I’m not going to debate the moral questions surrounding abortion. Instead, I want to bring this failed bill to light as an example of the changing opinions around the country, especially within the Democratic Party itself. The once “safe, legal, rare” argument seems like an ancient concept to some liberals in this country. I only ask one question to the readers: where do we, as a society, draw the line (if any) on whether or not an abortion should be permitted?


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