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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske January 5, 2023

Virginia state senate candidate makes misleading claim about an abortion ban

If Your Time is short

  • Aaron Rouse, a Democratic candidate for the Virginia Senate, has aired a TV ad saying his opponent, Republican Kevin Adams, "wants to end abortion." 
  • Rouse's ad offers no citation for its claim or any qualification. PolitiFact Virginia could not find evidence of Adams calling for a blanket ban on abortion.
  • Adams supports a propsal to ban Virginia abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and when a woman's life in endangered by pregnancy.
  • In Virginia, 97.5% of elective abortions in 2019 occurred during or before the 15th week of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..  

With the General Assembly gearing up for a battle this winter over Virginia’s abortion laws, many are watching a Jan. 10 special election for an open Senate seat in Virginia Beach.

Democrat Aaron Rouse is facing Republican Kevin Adams in a race to fill the 7th Senate District seat once occupied by now-Rep. Jen Kiggans, a Republican who was elected to Congress in November.

Rouse, a Virginia Beach City Council member and former professional football player, has centered his campaign on protecting abortion rights in Virginia. He has run a television ad saying that Adams, a retired U.S. Navy officer, "wants to ban abortion in Virginia."

We fact-checked the claim and found that Rouse has taken great liberty with Adams’ position on abortion.

Rouse’s ad

Ominous music, a ticking clock and a woman’s silhouette are featured in the ad. 

"You want to think it couldn’t happen in Virginia, but it could happen sooner than you think," a female narrator says. "Republicans in Richmond are trying to pass a new ban on abortion, and Kevin Adams wants to join them to take away women’s freedom to make our own personal medical decisions."

The screen fades to a darkened photo of Adams with a text overlay in all-caps: "KEVIN ADAMS WANTS TO BAN ABORTIONS."

"Kevin Adams would be the deciding vote to ban abortion in Virginia," the voice said. "But your vote can stop him before it’s too late."

The ad cites a Nov. 1, 2022, report by WCAV-TV in Charlottesville that state Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield County, plans to introduce a bill in 2023 that would completely ban abortions in Virginia. A similar bill has been introduced in the House of Delegates by Del. Marie March, R-Floyd County. 

The ad, however, offers no citation for its claim that "Adams wants to ban abortion," and we couldn’t find any record of him making such a claim. 

Adams’ position

Virginia allows elective abortions through the second trimester of pregnancy or about 26 weeks. Adams’ website says he favors a compromise urged by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin that would ban abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when pregnancy endangers a person’s life. In Virginia, 97.5% of abortions in 2019 occurred at 15 weeks or sooner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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"I am pro-life," Adams says on his website. "I believe this is an issue where we can find common ground. We need to pass laws that respect the rights of the mom and baby, limit late-term abortion by passing Glenn Youngkin's 15-week legislation, while providing reasonable exceptions to protect the life of the mother or in the instance of rape or incest."

Rouse’s explanation

So how does Rouse support his claim that "Adams wants to ban abortion"? We emailed his campaign and got a call from Gianni Snidle, communications director for the Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus, who said the matter is "clear as day."

Snidle said that a 15-week limit would prevent some women from ending their pregnancies and therefore is an abortion ban. But the ad never mentions 15 weeks: It says without qualification that Adams "wants to ban abortion" and cites a state legislator’s intent to introduce a total abortion ban.

We made three attempts to reach Adams’ campaign and did not get a response.

It should be pointed out that Youngkin’s 15-week compromise and bills to completely ban abortion appear to be nonstarters in the upcoming General Assembly session. Any restrictions that might pass the Republican-led House are almost certain to be killed by the Democratic-led Senate Education and Health Committee.

Rouse’s claim that Adams "would be the deciding vote to ban abortion in Virginia" is based on an unlikely scenario that such a bill would pass the Education and Health Committee and advance to the full Senate, which, if Adams is elected, would have 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans.

One Democrat — state Sen. Joe Morrissey of Richmond — has said he personally opposes abortions. Under the scenario presented, Morrissey would vote for an abortion ban, causing a 20-20 tie that could be broken in favor of a ban by Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears. If the Republican-led House concurred, the bill would then advance to Youngkin, who told a socially-conservative group in June that he would sign the 15-week compromise or "any bill … to protect life."

A problem with the scenario is that while Morrissey personally objects to abortions, he has maintained that the government should not interfere in a woman’s decision to have one.

Our ruling

Rouse said in a TV ad, "Kevin Adams wants to ban abortion."

The ad does not qualify or cite proof of its claim. It refers to a news story about a  senator’s intention to introduce a bill that would ban all abortions. Adams has not called for that. He supports a compromise that would ban state abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and when a mother’s life is endangered. In Virginia, 97.5% of abortions in 2019 occurred at 15 weeks or earlier.

Virginia now bans elective abortions at the end of the second trimester — about 26 weeks. A Rouse spokesman said the 15-week compromise is a ban because it would block some women from ending pregnancies. That qualification, however, is not in the ad. Viewers are simply told Adams "wants to ban abortion."

We rate Rouse’s claim Mostly False.


Our Sources

Aaron Rouse, TV ad, Dec. 23, 2022

Interview with Gianni Snidle, communications director for the Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus, Jan. 2, 2023

Kevin Adams, "My Platform," accessed Jan. 2, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2019," table 10, Nov. 26, 2021

Politico, "In one state Senate race, signs of a national struggle over abortion," Dec. 23, 2022

CBS19, "Chase to propose abortion ban in General Assembly," Nov. 1, 2022

Legislative Information System, HB 1395, 2023 session, accessed Jan. 3, 2023

WTKR-TV, "Abortion debate heats up in Virginia after Youngkin's budget proposal was released," Dec. 20, 2022

CBS News, transcript of Gov. Glenn Youngkin on "Face the Nation," July 10. 2022

The Washington Post, "Virginia Democrats vow to defeat Youngkin’s 15-week abortion ban proposal," Dec. 16, 2022

The Washington Post, "On abortion, Gov. Youngkin says he’ll sign ‘any bill ... to protect life,’" June 29, 2022

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Virginia state senate candidate makes misleading claim about an abortion ban

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