Politics & Policy

Northam: GOP Critics of Late-Term-Abortion Bill ‘Playing Politics with Women’s Health’

Democratic candidate for governor Ralph Northam speaks after his election night victory in Fairfax, Va., November 7, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/REUTERS)

Ralph Northam, the newly elected Democratic governor of Virginia, on Wednesday accused Republicans angered by his defense of a late-term-abortion bill being advanced in the Virginia state legislature of misrepresenting the bill and “playing politics with women health.”

“Republicans in Virginia and across the country are trying to play politics with women’s health, and that is exactly why these decisions belong between a woman and her physician, not legislators, most of whom are men,” Northam’s communication director, Ofirah Yheskel, said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances . . . and the governor’s comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor,” the statement continued. “Attempts to extrapolate these comments otherwise is in bad faith and underscores exactly why the governor believes physicians and women, not legislators, should make these difficult and deeply personal medical decisions.”

Northam, who worked as a pediatrician before entering politics, was asked during a Wednesday radio interview whether he supported Democratic delegate Kathy Tran’s late-term-abortion bill, which, she admitted during a Monday committee hearing, would allow doctors to perform an abortion up until the point of birth.

“This is why decisions such as this should be made by providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved,” Northam 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.”

The bill in question actually reduces the number of physicians required to sign off on a third-trimester abortion from three, as it stands under current law, to just one. Northam appeared to criticize that provision later in the interview, saying that he thinks “it’s always good to get a second opinion, and for at least two providers to be involved in that decision.”

“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” Northam continued. “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.”

Prominent conservative lawmakers, including Senators Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), condemned Northam following the radio interview.

“This is morally repugnant,” Sasse said of Northam’s comments. “In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide.’ I don’t care what party you’re from — if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.”

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