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Politifact Virginia: Thomas Rates "Mostly False" on Removal of Abortion Safeguards

politifact virginia - bob thomas

Speaker: Del. Bob Thomas

Statement: In Virginia, “the woman has the right to talk to the doctor who’s going to perform the abortion and [Democrats] wanted to strip that out.”

Date: May 8

Setting: Radio interview

During a recent radio interview, Del. Bob Thomas, R-Stafford, predicted abortion will be a major issue this fall when all 140 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot.

He said Republicans need to campaign on a failed bill introduced by a Democratic legislator winter this that would have repealed some of Virginia’s abortion restrictions. Thomas said the laws “safeguard” against third-term abortions in Virginia, where only two have been performed in the last 17 years, according to the state Department of Health.

Talk show host John Fredericks, during the May 8 interview, asked Thomas to identify the “safeguards” the bill would have removed.

“One: The woman has a right to talk to the doctor who’s going to perform the abortion, and (Democrats) wanted to strip that out,” Thomas said.

There’s been a lot of partisan debate on this bill, but we hadn’t heard anyone say it would have deprived a woman of her right to talk to the physician who was going to carry out her abortion. We wondered if Thomas was right.

Thomas was referring to a bill introduced by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax. It would have repealed hospital building codes for abortion clinics and ended requirements that a fetal ultrasound is performed and offered to the woman at least 24 hours before her abortion.

Most of the debate, however, focused on the bill’s provisions for rare third-trimester abortions, which are allowed if three physicians certify that 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 The “substantial and irremediable” test would have been repealed.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. In a year when partisan control of both General Assembly chambers is up for grabs, Republicans are planning to use the bill and Tran’s statement to argue that Democrats support abortion until almost the time of birth.

We asked Thomas to back his claim that the bill also would have rescinded a woman’s “right to talk to the doctor who’s going to perform the abortion.” He pointed to a section that would have repealed requirements that the woman undergoes an ultrasound and be presented with information about the benefits, risks, and alternatives to having an abortion.

Among the laws that would be erased was, “An offer for the woman to speak with the physician who is to perform the abortion so that he may answer any questions that the woman may have and provide further information concerning the procedures and protocols.”

Upon questioning, Thomas acknowledged that his statement was imprecise, and that woman’s - or a man’s - right to speak to her physician wouldn’t have been curtailed.

He said his concern is, without the offer, many women wouldn’t ask to speak beforehand to the doctor performing the abortion.

“My speculation is that it’s very scary time wrought with emotion and you might not think you have the options you have,” he said.

“Everyone wants these women to make the most informed decision they can,” Thomas added.


Our ruling

Thomas said a Virginia woman “has the right to talk to the doctor who’s going to perform the abortion and (Democrats) wanted to strip that out.”

He’s referring to a failed bill that would have repealed many abortion laws, including a requirement that a woman is offered an opportunity to talk beforehand with the physician who will perform the procedure. The legislation was sponsored by a Democrat.

The bill would not have tinkered with a patient’s fundamental right to speak with her doctor; it simply would have lifted a requirement that she be informed of that right before the abortion. There’s a big difference between those two provisions.

We rate Thomas’ statement Mostly False.



Del. Bob Thomas, Radio interview on The John Frederick Show, May 8, 2019 (3:44 mark).

Interview with Thomas, May 10, 2019.

Legislative Information System, HB2491, accessed May 10, 2019.

Code of Virginia, § 18.2-74, accessed May 10, 2019.

Email from Maribeth Brewster, communications director, Virginia Department of Health, May 10. 2019.