President Donald Trump made an incendiary remark at a rally Saturday night, veering from criticism of Wisconsin’s Democratic governor to a false claim that mothers and doctors have the option to “execute” babies.
Speaking at a rally he hosted in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Saturday, Trump pointed to former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who was in attendance, and said Walker’s successor, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers “shockingly stated that he will veto legislation that protects Wisconsin babies born alive.”
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Evers planned to veto a GOP-backed state bill that could have meant life sentences in prison for doctors who intentionally did not provide medical care to babies born alive after a failed abortion.
Trump continued on the theme after his initial comment to claim that mothers and doctors are given the choice to “execute” a baby.
“The baby is born,” Trump said. “The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don’t think so.”
Trump’s claim that mothers and doctors are permitted to execute a baby after it leaves the womb is incorrect. The bill he referred to would mandate that health professionals do all they could to keep a baby alive if it was “born alive” and would penalize anyone who let a baby die.
Trump insisted at his rally that this was “incredible” and also made an implicit reference to a comment from Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who sparked confusion and controversy earlier this year when asked about legislation that would relax requirements around abortions in the third trimester.
“Until this crazy man in Virginia said it, nobody even thought of that,” Trump said. “Did anyone even think of that? You hear late-term, but this is when the baby is actually born, it came out, it’s there, it’s wrapped and that’s it.”
Northam told Washington radio station WTOP in January: “[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.”
“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, a pediatric neurosurgeon, said.
Later, a spokesperson for Northam said his comments were taken out of context and “were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances [i.e. nonviable pregnancy and severe fetal abnormalities] went into labor” but the clarification did not address Northam’s remark that “the infant would be delivered.”
CNN spoke with a pair of ob-gyns earlier this year, both of whom took issue with the phrase “late-term” and rhetoric around the issue.
“Abortion later in pregnancy is not used as an alternative to delivering healthy women’s full-term, viable pregnancies,” said Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president of health policy at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Additionally, it’s callous to suggest that healthy women with viable pregnancies at term abruptly change their minds and seek abortion care as the solution.”
Asked why abortions would happen at a later stage of pregnancy, Dr. Jennifer Conti, a fellow with the advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health and co-host of The V Word podcast, said, “Those exceptionally rare cases that happen after 24 weeks are often because a fetus has a condition that cannot be treated and will never be able to survive – regardless of the gestational age or trimester.”
“It’s this exact reason that it’s nonsensical to legislate these cases: Nobody arrives at the decision to have an abortion after 24 weeks carelessly,” Conti said. “Rather, it’s the rare case of rapidly decompensating maternal heart disease or a delayed diagnosis of anencephaly, where the fetus forms without a complete brain or skull, that bring people to these decisions.”
CNN’s Meg Wagner, Holmes Lybrand, Devan Cole and Jessica Ravitz contributed to this report.