Photo credit: VCU Capital News Service via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Va. Gov. Northam Under Fire After Defending Bill Allowing Newborn Babies to Die


Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) appeared on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program on Wednesday morning, where the interviewer asked him about the “Repeal Act” filed by Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran (D-West Springfield).

The bill sparked a nationwide controversy when Tran admitted that the legislation allowed abortions up to the point of birth, even while the mother is in labor.

“This is why decisions such as this should be made by providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved. When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physician — more than one physician, by the way — and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s non-viable,” Northam said defending the bill.

“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,” he continued.

He said both the bill and her comments were “blown out of proportion” and legislators should not tell a woman what to do with her body.

Governor Northam’s office in a released statement attacked Republicans while attempting to clarify his remarks:

Republicans in Virginia and across the country are trying to play politics with women’s health, and that is exactly why these decisions belong between a woman and her physician, not legislators, most of whom are men.

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. 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.

Virginia law currently prohibits third trimester abortions, except in the extreme circumstances in which a woman’s life or health is at risk and that risk is certified by three physicians.

One glaring problem with Governor Northam’s comments and the follow-up statement his office sent is that Delegate Tran’s bill would eliminate those particular restrictions they tout. I don’t know how the clarification is much better, because he still supports the denial of critical care for a newborn in the cases of a nonviable pregnancy (in which case, the baby should die naturally even under medical care, right?) and “severe fetal abnormalities” (like Down Syndrome?).

Another problem is the remark that only physicians and mothers are allowed to weigh in on what is a matter of public policy. We have an inalienable right to life. A decision to abort or to let a newborn baby die is not just a medical decision. It’s a moral one as well, and abortion snuffs out human life. Many parents of special needs children can tell you that doctors do not always provide the best advice in these matters, and the thought that after a baby is born there would be a discussion about whether to deny critical care is appalling.

Also, pre-born babies are not part of a mother’s body, and abortion guarantees hundreds of thousands of pre-born females annually do not have control of their bodies. Do they not matter?

One final problem I see with this exchange is this: When do fathers have a say? Fathers are also responsible for these unborn babies, and they most certainly should have a say before and after a child is born, but they are absent from this discussion.

Photo credit: VCU Capital News Service via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart, an Iowa native, is the online communications manager for the American Principles Project and a frequent contributor to Shane is also the Editor-in-Chief for, a popular Christian conservative blog.

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