Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran (D) and other state Democrats were forced to take security precautions this week after anti-abortion activists began sending a flurry of death threats and racist messages over HB 2491, an abortion bill that was defeated on a party-lines vote during a subcommittee hearing Monday.
The bill would have reduced from three to one the number of doctors required to sign off on medically necessary third-trimester abortions, a procedure that has not been performed in the Commonwealth for the past three years, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Most states do not require two doctors to sign off on the medical necessity of a third-trimester abortion, let alone three.
Similar pro-choice bills have been voted down in the state legislature for years.
Tran, who sponsored the bill and is a mother to an infant, was grilled by Republican House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert this week about whether HB 2491 might make it legal to abort a fetus moments before birth.
“Where it’s obvious a woman is about to give birth…would that still be at a point at which she can request an abortion if she was so certified — she’s dilating?” Gilbert asked.
“Yes,” Tran responded.
Gilbert, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R), their party apparatus, and anti-abortion websites later circulated a video of the exchange and it eventually made its way to conservative media giants like Fox News, eventually reaching President Donald Trump, who called Tran’s remarks “terrible.”
Tran later told The Washington Post that she had “misspoke,” saying, “I should have said: ‘Clearly, no, because infanticide is not allowed in Virginia, and what would have happened in that moment would be a live birth.'”
As ThinkProgress previously noted, abortion providers and experts have also since slammed Gilbert’s question as “nonsensical.”
The Post reported on Thursday that Tran and her family had, as a result of the GOP-circulated video, “received death threats through telephone messages, email and social media, leading to extra police protection for her and her family, and difficult discussions with her elementary-school-aged children.”
On Friday, the Democratic Party of Virginia shared with ThinkProgress audio of a death threat it had received.
In the recording, an unidentified caller incorrectly claims the party is proposing to legalize murder and then quotes a Stephen King novel to threaten the lives of the Virginia Democrats. “Redrum, redrum, soon we will come,” the caller says, a reference to The Shining and the word “murder” spelled backwards.
In another audio file provided to ThinkProgress by the Virginia Democratic Party, an unidentified caller suggests that Tran “go back to Vietnam,” using a racial slur while offering to drive her to the airport “as long as she sits in the back seat.”
Outraged “pro-life” activists issued similar threats on social media this week, some suggesting Tran be impeached or sentenced to prison for her comments:
I’m not saying that Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran should be hounded by the mob, but she should have to answer some tough questions; preferably in front of a jury, prior to her conviction and 20-year sentencing for attempted mass infanticide. That’s all I’m saying.
— Ryan Prong ن (@RyanProng) January 30, 2019
— Linda (@FerrellMama) January 30, 2019
Cox and Gilbert have long opposed the idea of reproductive choice. In 2007 and 2012, both supported bills to treat fertilized embryos as people under Virginia law — a bill that could have outlawed not only abortion but emergency contraception as well. In 2017, both backed a resolution urging Virginian’s to fly flags at half staff to commemorate the millions of “unborn children” who “have lost their lives to abortion.” Cox also opposed a 1997 law guaranteeing state employees access to prescription coverage for birth control.
“This political stunt — led by a man [Cox] who has been trying to ban abortion in Virginia for 30 years — is a particularly disgusting chapter in Virginia Republicans’ desperate attempt to hold onto power in the General Assembly,” Jake Rubenstein, communications director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, told ThinkProgress on Friday. He added that the party has also had to take additional security precautions.