It took the president less than a week to repeat the anti-abortion movement’s latest lie to a crowd of hundreds Monday. Last week, President Donald Trump lied about a Virginia abortion bill during his State of the Union address, after confusing statements from Gov. Ralph Northam (D) went viral.
This time, to a crowd in El Paso, Texas, he took his problematic comments even further.
“The governor stated that he would even allow a newborn baby to come out into the world and wrap the baby and make the baby comfortable. And then talk to the mother and talk to the father and then execute the baby — execute the baby,” Trump said Monday.
“Millions of innocent, beautiful babies are counting on us to protect them, and we will. That is why last week, I called on Congress… to immediately pass legislation prohibiting extreme late-term abortion,” he added.
The president falsely accused Northam of “execut[ing] a baby after birth” during his State of the Union address as well, using this lie to justify a “late-term” abortion bill.
It’s unclear what the president means by “late-term” abortion, as this isn’t a medical term, but misnomer used by anti-abortion advocates. The president may be encouraging Republican lawmakers to try to pass a 20-week abortion ban. Already, the Senate tried but failed to pass a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks last January. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged lawmakers to pass the bill because, he claimed, a fetus can feel pain at that point in pregnancy. But evidence-based research shows a fetus is unlikely to feel pain until about 27 weeks.
Now, the president is likely using the anti-abortion movement’s latest manufactured controversy to garner support for Graham’s bill or something like it. The controversy is over Virginia’s abortion bill, which modestly loosens restrictions on abortions after the second trimester. Specifically, the bill would require only one provider, not three, to approve third-trimester abortions that occur for heath concerns. Roe v. Wade protects access to abortions later in pregnancy (or after fetal viability), stating that states may not ban abortions “necessary to preserve the life or health” of the pregnant person.
But many anti-abortion conservatives have mischaracterized the bill and, as a result, later abortions. Sen Ben Sasse (R-NE), for example, called later abortions “a practice that is repugnant to civilized people across the entire world.” Lies about the Virginia bill have led many to target its sponsor Del. Kathy Tran (D) with racist, threatening messages.
Northam — who’s being asked to resign after a racist photo surfaced in his medical school yearbook page — was asked about Tran’s bill late last month, and he gave a befuddled response that has further emboldened the anti-abortion movement. Northam said, during a radio interview in January, that after a failed abortion, “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.”
His response triggered a wave of outrage from conservatives, who used it to manufacture a controversy over “infanticide.” It also highlighted how many lawmakers, including Democrats, are uncomfortable with or lack basic knowledge about later abortions.