Governor responds to backlash for late-term abortion remarks

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) — Gov. Ralph Northam continues to take heat over his comments on a controversial Virginia abortion bill.

Republicans accuse Northam, who worked as a pediatric neurologist before his election, of supporting infanticide, but the Democratic governor is saying his comments have been taken out of context.

The bill, which has already been defeated, would have allowed for only one doctor, rather than the required three doctors, to approve a third-trimester abortion if the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life.

In a radio interview on WTOP, Northam defended the bill, saying, "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.”

Prominent Republicans accused the governor of supporting “born-alive abortions.”

In an interview with the Daily Caller, President Donald Trump said, “Do you remember when I said Hillary Clinton was willing to rip the baby out of the womb? That’s what it is. That’s what they’re doing, it’s terrible.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted, “I never thought I would see the day America had government officials who openly support legal infanticide.”

Northam’s communications director issued a statement clarifying his remarks.

The statement said “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.”

"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," she said.

Northam’s office says Republicans are mischaracterizing his statement for political gain.

Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox gave a floor speech — which speakers almost never do — Wednesday where he publicly scolded himself for not doing more to restrict abortions and said he worried Virginia was on the verge of adopting abortion laws similar to those in liberal states. New York just approved an abortion-law overhaul that includes a provision permitting late-term abortions when a woman's health is endangered.

On Thursday, Republican leaders held a morning press conference on the bill. Democrats, including Northam, will respond in the afternoon.

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