Donald Trump again engaged in the promotion of dangerous and false rumors about third trimester abortions during his rally in El Paso, TX, on Monday night.
While talking about comments made by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam last month, Trump accused Northam of supporting allowing doctors to “execute babies.”
As if we needed an indication that Trump gives zero shits about either abortion or actual children, he also spent a few moments making fun of Northam’s ongoing blackface scandal, joking about Northam’s wife saving him from attempting the moonwalk during his disastrous press conference earlier this month. Trump was clearly in a good mood—he didn’t quite have the air of someone discussing murdering children.
After using the medically inaccurate, right-wing smear phrase “late-term abortion,” Trump said that Northam endorsed murdering babies after birth:
“The governor stated that he would allow a newborn baby to come out into the world, and wrap the baby, and make the baby comfortable, and then talk to the mother and talk to the father and then execute the baby. Execute the baby!”
The crowd erupted in boos.
Trump’s statement is a twisted version of what Northam—who is a pediatrician—said two weeks ago in reference to a Virginia bill proposed by lawmaker Kathy Tran that would have made third-trimester abortions slightly easier to access for women who need them.
In a radio interview after the bill had received backlash from right wing media, Northam was asked if the bill would allow abortion while a woman was in labor.
Here’s how he responded:
I would say is this is why decisions such as this should be made by [healthcare] providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved. There are — you know when we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of, obviously, the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician by the way. And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.
Northam was trying, incompetently, to defuse the situation here, explaining how it works when a nonviable baby is born. Physicians “keep the baby comfortable” while the parents decide what to do next—should we keep the baby, which might be in great pain, on life support? Enact extreme medical interventions that would maybe buy the baby a few more hours? Or merely provide palliative care?
This heartbreaking decision, for parents who already gave birth to a baby that they knew wasn’t going to live, is not unlike the decision many families face when their loved ones die. Someone has to make the decision about how long to keep a non-responsive person alive artificially. In the case of a nonviable fetus, Northam was saying, rationally, that the decision should be up to the mother and father, along with their doctor.
Currently, in Virginia, if a woman wants to access a third-trimester abortion, she needs a sign off not just from her own doctor but two additional doctors as well. Tran’s bill would have lowered that number to one, and added language about the mother’s mental and physical health.
“Abortion later in pregnancy is not what patients anticipate for themselves,” abortion provider Dr. Meera Shah wrote for Jezebel last week. “It’s not how they see their pregnancies unfolding. I had one patient who couldn’t afford to travel outside of the state and so she continued the pregnancy and the baby died shortly after birth due to a brain malformation. Years later, she is unable to tell her story without tears.”
“Abortions later in pregnancy typically occur because of two general indications: lethal fetal anomalies or threats to the health of the mother,” Dr. Barbara Levy, an OBGYN, told CNN. “Some fetal development problems or genetic anomalies do not show up or develop until later in pregnancy. Some examples might include anencephaly [lack of fully formed skull] or limb-body wall complex, when the organs develop outside of the body cavity. With conditions like these, the fetus cannot survive out of the uterus.”
Restrictions on third-trimester abortion—which is already heavily restricted in the U.S. and comprises just over 1 percent of abortions—just make these already horrifying situations worse for parents.
The implication that Trump and many on the right are making—that women close to giving birth would abuse a lenient abortion law to murder their own children—should be deeply offensive to anyone with a brain.