Heart-wrenching testimony kills Virginia abortion regulation

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, February 3, 2012 10:58 EDT
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An ultrasound image of an unborn child. Photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber.
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A so-called “fetal pain” bill was voted down by a Senate committee in Virginia on Thursday after a woman gave an emotionally gripping testimony about how she decided to terminate a pregnancy after the proposed 20-week cutoff date.

Tara Schleifer, 42, told Virginia lawmakers that at week 17 of her pregnancy, her unborn child was diagnosed with a host of mental and physical disorders, including a heart defect, a bowel problem and Down Syndrome, according to The Associated Press. She said that if she had not taken several weeks to research and think about her decision, she could have made the wrong call.

Ultimately, she decided to have an abortion after accepting that it “seemed inhumane” to subject her newborn baby to such incredible pain while her 3-year-old son languished away from her utmost attention. Shleifer said that should would have rather “died than do this to my baby.”

“Terminating was the last thing I wanted to do, even up until the last moment,” she said, according to AP. “I was literally kicking and screaming in the hospital. But I thought of every person in the situation, including my baby, and realized the only ones I could save were the living.”

The bill would have banned abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is when anti-abortion activists claim a fetus gains the sense of touch. The science behind that claim, however, is still in question.

Because of Schleifer’s testimony, lawmakers on the Senate committee deadlocked in a 7-7 vote. One Republican, Sen. Mark Obenshain, abstained.

Despite the proposed 20-week restriction’s failure, the Virginia Senate still approved a regulation which will require women to undergo a medically unnecessary trans-vaginal sonogram before an abortion can be performed. A similar law was passed last year in Texas, but its legality is still in question.

“Fetal pain” bills have swept conservative-leaning states in recent years, with more than 16 legislatures considering the enhanced regulations of women’s health. In Virginia, abortions are already banned after 25 weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control notes that abortions after 21 weeks are already very rare: a report in 2003 found that just 1.4 percent of abortions happen past 21 weeks.

Photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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