Virginia Republicans sink to new lows in battle to control women’s reproductive rights

STERLING, VA - NOVEMBER 03: Virginia Democratic candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, answers questions while campaigning at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society following Friday prayers November 3, 2017 in Sterling, Virginia. Virginia will elect the next governor of the state next Tuesday, November 7. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Gov. Ralph Northam

Republicans are trying to boost their 2019 electoral chances in Virginia by whipping up a controversy over a proposal to lighten some of the state’s onerous restrictions on abortion rights. State Delegate Kathy Tran’s bill has already been tabled and is unlikely to resurface this session, but Republicans are not letting go of the chance to lie about Democrats. Tran’s bill would have done away with the state’s forced-ultrasound law and allowed second-trimester abortions to be performed outside state-licensed hospitals. But the provision that has Republicans all worked-up would have given the decision that a third-trimester abortion is necessary for the mother’s health to a woman and her doctor, rather than to the committee of three doctors currently required to sign off on such a decision.

Third-trimester abortions happen either because a woman’s health is at risk or because the pregnancy is not viable. But according to Republicans, it’s infanticide, and they will misrepresent anything they can find a Democrat saying to make that case. They’ve particularly latched onto comments by Gov. Ralph Northam, who is a doctor, about what would happen if a woman went into labor before she could get an abortion. 

[Third trimester abortions are] done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” Northam said. “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.” So … he said that if a baby was born, despite the pregnancy being compromised to the point where a third-trimester abortion was necessary, because labor had started, and a baby with severe abnormalities was born, it would be cared for as appropriate, with the mother and doctor making that decision together. Shocking!

According to Republicans from Donald Trump to Marco Rubio, Northam was advocating infanticide. Which is—newsflash—not a thing that doctors do. Unless you are a grotesquely dishonest partisan, it was obvious that he was referring to a case where an infant’s condition meant she or he would not survive for long. “We want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions,” Northam said. “We want the decision to be made by the mothers and their providers.” That is emphatically not what Republicans want.

Republicans took a simple proposal to stop forcing women to find three doctors to sign off on a medically necessary procedure and they turned it into howls about infanticide. It’s Republican dishonesty, determination to control women’s bodies, and desperation to reverse the GOP’s electoral decline in Virginia, all wrapped into one disgusting manufactured controversy.

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