The Corner

Politics & Policy

Politifact’s Gaslighting on Trump, Northam, and Abortion

Virginia governor Ralph Northam speaks during a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, Va., February 2, 2019. (Jay Paul/Reuters)

During his rally yesterday evening in North Carolina, President Trump devoted part of his speech to attacking Democratic politicians for their radical stance on abortion policy. Since the spring, the president has directed much of his ire on this topic at Virginia governor Ralph Northam, who during a January radio interview expressed support for a state law that would have loosened restrictions on abortion late in pregnancy.

According to the bill’s own sponsor, the legislation would have expanded the “health” exception to abortion limitations, allowing women in some cases to obtain an abortion even up to the moment of her child’s delivery. When asked to clarify this aspect of the bill, here’s what the Virginia governor said:

When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physician — 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.

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.

Last night, Trump described Northam as having said, “after the baby was born, the doctor will talk to the mother and make a decision about whether the baby lives.” Unlike some of Trump’s past references to the comments — in which he described Northam as having endorsed allowing doctors to “execute” babies — this summary is fairly accurate. Given the context of the governor’s response, it’s abundantly clear that he condoned permitting at least some infants to die after birth if they were meant to have been aborted a few minutes earlier.

But last night, Politifact immediately tweeted about the president’s remarks, noting “We rated his similar claim about abortion False” and linking to its own article on the same topic from February. For one thing, that article from February had to do with Trump’s claim about “executing babies” — a clearly more inaccurate claim. What’s more, the Politifact piece itself quoted directly from Northam’s interview, illustrating that Trump’s claim is at least partially true.

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