Amid uproar over Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s stunning defense of letting born-alive infants die if the mother does not want to save it, the “moderate” governor’s defenders on the Left are pushing a claim about late-term abortions that an extensive study by a pro-choice group has already debunked.
“When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of the mother, with the consent of 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 which is non-viable,” Gov. Northam said in an interview with WTOP’s “Ask The Governor” Wednesday that sent shock waves across the country. “So in this particular example, if the 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 this is what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”
Northam’s endorsement of allowing a born-alive child to die if it has “severe deformities” or is “non-viable” comes a day after Democratic Virginia State House member Kathy Tran presented a bill that allows abortion until birth if a woman and her doctor deem the child to be a threat to the mother’s health, including her “mental health.” Pressed by a colleague Tuesday if a woman should be allowed to abort the child to protect her “mental health” even as she’s “about to give birth … dilating,” Tran responded, “My bill would allow that, yes.”
Northam’s defense of the bill was met with immediate blowback, including from Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who described the governor’s comments as “morally repugnant,” declaring: “[I]f you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.”
Northam has responded to the backlash by making a claim that many on the Left have echoed: “No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities, 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,” Northam spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said in a statement Wednesday.
Far-left group Media Matters made a similar argument, but widened the scope: “Right-wing media’s outcry today about ‘infanticide’ / ‘abortions ‘till birth’ is both inaccurate and cruel. People don’t have later abortions recreationally — they are rare and used when a pregnancy is nonviable or risks the person’s life.”
But is that claim correct? Do “no women” have “later abortions” other than because of the nonviability of the child or a true risk to the mother’s health?
As the Free Beacon’s Alex Griswold pointed out, a 2013 study by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute found that a majority of women who seek late-term abortions (later than 20 weeks) do so for reasons other than the viability of the baby.
“Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous,” the summary of the study’s results explains.
Results: Women aged 20–24 were more likely than those aged 25–34 to have a later abortion (odds ratio, 2.7), and women who discovered their pregnancy before eight weeks’ gestation were less likely than others to do so (0.1). Later abortion recipients experienced logistical delays (e.g., difficulty finding a provider and raising funds for the procedure and travel costs), which compounded other delays in receiving care. Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.
While Northam was discussing extreme cases in the third trimester, which the response from his office stresses, the general argument, as stated by Media Matters, that women who have “later abortions” only do so because the baby is “nonviable” or “risks the person’s life” is simply false.