Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D.) commented Wednesday about a controversial 40-week abortion bill and in so doing said the law allows an abortion to take place after the infant's birth.
"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," Northam said, alluding to the physician and mother discussing whether the born infant should live or die.
A Democratic lawmaker in the Virginia House of Delegates proposed a bill Tuesday that would allow abortions through the end of the third trimester of pregnancy. The video of Delegate Kathy Tran presenting her bill led to an exchange where she admitted that her bill would allow for a mother to abort her child minutes before giving birth.
"How late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated that it would impair the mental health of the woman?" Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R.) asked.
"Or physical health," Tran said.
"Okay," Gilbert replied. "I'm talking about the mental health."
"I mean, through the third trimester," Tran said. "The third trimester goes up to 40 weeks."
"Okay, but to the end of the third trimester?" Gilbert asked.
"Yup, I don't think we have a limit in the bill," Tran said.
"Where it's obvious that a woman is about to give birth, she has physical signs that she's about to give birth, would that still be a point at which she could request an abortion if she was so certified?" Gilbert asked. "She's dilating."
Tran responded that is a decision between the woman and her doctor would have to make. Gilbert asked if her bill would allow an abortion right before the infant was born.
"My bill would allow that, yes," Tran said.
NBC4 reporter Julie Carey asked Northam about the measure.
"Do you support her measure and explain her answer?" Carey asked.
"I wasn't there, Julie. And I certainly can't speak for delegate Tran. But I would tell you one, the first think I would say, 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 physicians, more than one physician by the way. And it is done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that is non-viable."
Northam continued by saying government shouldn't be involved in these types of decisions and that legislators, especially male legislators, shouldn't be telling women what to do.
"I think this was really blown out of proportion. But again we want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions. We want the decision to be made by the mothers and their providers. And this is why Julie, that legislators, most of whom are men by the way, shouldn't be telling a woman what she should or shouldn't be doing with her body," Northam said.
Carey asked if the law should still require women to have multiple physicians approve an abortion.
"Well, I think it is always good to get a second opinion and for at least two providers to be involved in that decision," Northam said. "These decisions shouldn't be taken lightly.
Northam's office released a statement about his comments.
"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," Ofirah Yheskel, a spokeswoman for Northam, said. "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,"
Update 4:24 p.m.: Article was updated to include Northam's statement.