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PolitiFact VA: Luria exaggerates Kiggans’ stance on 15-week abortion ban 

Jen Kiggins gestures while holding a piece of paper; Elaine Luria speaks at a public event.
U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria is striving to make abortion rights the central issue in her hotly-contested reelection bid against State Sen. Jen Kiggans. (Photos: Steve Helber/AP)

Speaker: U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria
Statement: “Jen Kiggans’ campaign confirmed today that she would support a national abortion ban.”
Date: Sept. 14
Setting: Twitter

Like many Democrats across the nation, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria is striving to make abortion rights the central issue in her hotly-contested reelection bid against State Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach).

“After months of lying, Jen Kiggans’ campaign confirmed today that she would support a national abortion ban,” Luria tweeted on Sept. 14. “She’s too extreme for Coastal Virginia.”

Has Kiggans endorsed a national abortion ban? We fact checked Luria’s claim and found she has stretched some hazy statements recently made by Kiggans’ campaign.

At issue is a bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would set a national ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measure allows exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life would be endangered by continuing the pregnancy.

The bill has almost no chance of passing the Democratic-led House of Representatives this year. And if Republicans win majorities in the House and Senate during this fall’s elections and a similar bill passed next year, President Joe Biden seems certain to veto it.

Even so, the bill has stoked heated debate on abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a constitutional right to an abortion. The June ruling empowered states to set their own abortion laws and was praised by Kiggans.

Graham’s bill would allow states that have outlawed most abortions, or set restrictions at fewer than 15 weeks, to keep their laws. The bill would affect states, including Virginia, that allow abortions after 15 weeks. 

Did Kiggans endorse a national abortion ban?

Kiggans has been difficult to pin down on abortion. She said she is “100%, unapologetically pro-life” while campaigning in the Republican primary this year but added few details. She modified her language this fall, vaguely saying she supports “common sense” restrictions on abortions.

After Democrats pushed Kiggans to take a position on Graham’s bill, Kiggans’ campaign spokesman Bryan Piligra told news outlets, "The vast majority of Virginians — and Americans — support common-sense restrictions on abortion such as protecting babies from 15 weeks on.”

We tried to reach Piligra for elaboration three times and did not get a response. Other news outlets were also unable to get more details from the spokesman.

Luria’s campaign said Piligra’s statement justified its claim that “Kiggans’ campaign confirmed … she would support a national abortion ban.” But there are problems with that conclusion.

First, Luria’s claim — stated in large letters at the top of her tweet — suggests Kiggans supports an outright abortion ban. Kiggans has not called for that and Graham’s bill would not establish one. Nationally, 95.7% of abortions in 2019 occurred before or during the 15th week of pregnancy, where Graham would set the limit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Luria does quote a newsletter at the bottom of her tweet, in smaller type, that mentions the 15-week limit.

Second, while Kiggans seemed to praise Graham’s bill, she stopped short of endorsing it. The Washington Post said, Kiggans “called a national ban on abortion after 15 weeks a ‘common-sense’ restriction but did not say whether she would vote for it.”

Virginia news outlets recognized this distinction and said that Kiggans “suggested” or “implied” she would support a 15-week national ban. 

News reports also noted Kiggans’ mixed messages on abortion. For example, her seeming openness to Graham’s bill is at odds with her insistence that abortion should be a state matter. 

Luria is standing by her tweet. 

"Jen Kiggans praised a national abortion ban bill when it was introduced and then refused to follow up with reporters when asked for more details on her position,” Luria campaign spokesman Jayce Genco wrote in an email. “Women’s reproductive health is on the ballot this November and we will not apologize for responding to the rare statements that she makes on this issue."

Our ruling

Luria tweeted, “Jen Kiggans’ campaign confirmed today that she would support a national abortion ban.” At the bottom of the tweet, Luria noted she was talking about a proposed national abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Asked to comment on a proposed 15-week abortion ban, Kiggans’ spokesman said most Americans “support common-sense restrictions on abortion such as protecting babies from 15 weeks on.” That clearly suggests Kiggans is open to the idea, but it does not confirm that she supports a ban. Kiggans has not cleared up her position.

We rate Luria’s statement Half True.  

Sources

Elaine Luria, tweet, Sept. 14, 2022

Emails from Jayce Genco, spokesperson for Kiggans campaign,” Sept 19-20, 2022

Congress.gov, S.4840, 2021-22 session

The White House, “Statement by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Proposed National Abortion Ban,” Sept. 13, 2022

Suffolk News-Herald, “Jen Kiggans,” June 7, 2022

Virginia Scope,”The Kiggans campaign implies she would support a 15-week ban on abortion,” Sept. 14, 2022

PolitiFact Wisconsin, “Challenger Barnes vastly overstates case, suggesting U.S. Sen. Johnson backs outright abortion ban,” Sept. 13, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2019,” table 10

The Washington Post, “Kiggans talks up 15-week abortion ban but won’t say if she’d vote for it,” Sept. 14, 2022

13 NEWSNOW, “Kiggans sends mixed message on supporting federal abortion ban after 15 weeks,” Sept. 15, 2021