Virginia governor Ralph Northam received Planned Parenthood talking points just hours after he told a radio station that doctors should be able to deny life-saving care to abortion survivors, according to newly released documents.
A Planned Parenthood employee who previously worked as a Northam aide reached out to the Democratic governor's office shortly after his botched interview with a local radio station. She included several talking points to help sell the Northam-backed late-term abortion bill.
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"Let's set the record straight: There is no such thing as an abortion up until birth," Planned Parenthood's Alexsis Rodgers said in an email to several Northam staffers shortly after the Jan. 30 interview. "The idea that this bill somehow allows a woman to have an abortion up to or as she gives birth is flat-out untrue—it's simply not how medical care works, and it's frankly irresponsible to imply that it is."
The emails to Northam's office illustrate the rapid damage control campaign pro-choice activists employed to defend the bill in the wake of the governor's comments. The documents were released by government watchdog Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Rodgers's message had the subject "Topline messages for Northam" and featured personalized instructions for Northam to address abortion "as a physician." Rodgers was Northam's policy director when he was lieutenant governor, although she now works for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Her message was forwarded to Virginia's deputy secretary of health and human resources Gena Berger.
The email was sent in the aftermath of Northam's now-infamous radio interview about how doctors should treat infants born alive during an abortion procedure.
"If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen," Northam said during the interview. "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 later said his comments were taken out of context to make it sound like he was excusing infanticide.
Planned Parenthood recognized that the comments would generate backlash and attempted to help Northam deal with criticism. Rodgers's email recommended that the governor refer to pro-life criticism as "sensationalized and insensitive commentary from anti-abortion extremists." It also instructed him to focus on "medical decisions that families deserve to make in private without political interference."
The email also provided answers to possible "tricky" questions Northam could face when discussing abortion, such as "Can a woman get an abortion for mental health reasons?" and "When does life begin?"
Another document shows Berger asking a NARAL Pro-Choice America representative to send over talking points for a NARAL press conference Northam was attending.
Despite the extensive messaging assistance from two of the most influential abortion lobbies in the country, the Virginia late-term abortion bill failed to pass after several Democrats rescinded their support.
Northam's abortion remarks were soon overshadowed by a law school blackface scandal, which he survived despite calls for him to step down.