Politics & Policy

Beto O’Rourke on Third-Trimester Abortions: ‘That Should Be a Decision That the Woman Makes’

Beto O’Rourke speaks with supporters in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, March 15, 2019. (Ben Brewer/Reuters)

Beto O’Rourke refused to provide a direct answer when asked about the morality of third-trimester abortion during a Monday campaign event, pivoting instead to the issue of abortion generally, which he argued the government should not regulate.

“Are you for or against third-trimester abortion?” asked an attendee at O’Rourke’s campaign stop in Cleveland, Ohio.

“The question is about abortion and reproductive rights and my answer to you is that should be a decision that the woman makes. I trust her,” O’Rourke said to thunderous applause.

The former Texas congressman, who rose to prominence during a failed Senate run against Ted Cruz (R., Texas) last year, co-sponsored in 2017 the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have eliminated nearly all state restrictions on abortion, including so-called right-to-know laws and mandatory waiting periods.

O’Rourke’s refusal to engage with the policy debate surrounding third-trimester abortions in particular is broadly reflective of the Democratic presidential field, which comprises lawmakers who maintain a blanket opposition to abortion restrictions regardless of gestational age.

Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s apparent endorsement of infanticide galvanized conservative opposition to late-term abortion in January.

“This is why decisions such as this should be made by providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved,” Northam said when asked about legislation pending in the Virginia state house that would permit abortion for any reason up until the moment of birth. “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.”

Northam’s comments prompted Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) to introduce the Born Alive Survivors Protection Act, which would require that doctors care for infants born alive after botched abortion procedures. Senate Democrats — with the exception of Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Doug Jones of Alabama — voted against the bill, leaving Republicans seven votes short of the 60 required to advance the legislation.

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