Virginia Governor Ralph Northam denies supporting infanticide after backing late-term abortion bill

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam(WTOP)

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has come under fire for speaking in support of a bill that seeks to loosen the restrictions around late-term abortions.

The Democratic governor found himself at the centre of a media storm over comments he made in relation to The Repeal Act put forward by Virginia Democratic delegate Kathy Tran.

The bill 'eliminates the requirement that two other physicians certify that a third trimester abortion is necessary to prevent the woman's death or impairment of her mental or physical health' and removes 'the need to find that any such impairment to the woman's health would be substantial and irremediable'.

A video clip of Tran introducing her bill went viral on Wednesday after being shared by Republicans.  The clip shows Republican House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert asking Tran if the bill would allow abortion up to the point of birth and if the woman were 'dilating'. 

'My bill would allow that, yes,' she said. 

After a backlash ensued, Gov Northam sought to pacify Republicans and pro-lifers in an interview with WTOP-FM on Wednesday but his comments only stoked further outrage.

'[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,' he told the station.

'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: 'We want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions. We want the decisions to be done by the mothers and the providers. And this is why ... legislatures, most of whom are men by the way, shouldn't be telling a woman what to do about her body.'

He then added that third trimester abortions at present require the consent of the mother and more than one doctor.

'When we talk about third trimester abortions these are done with the consent of the mother, with the consent of the physicians obviously - more than one physicians by the way - and it's done in cases of severe deformities, where the fetus is nonviable,' he said.

Tran's bill proposes reducing the number of consenting physicians to just one. 

Gov Northam's comments led Florida's Republican Senator Marco Rubio to accuse him of supporting the legalisation of infanticide. 

'I never thought I would see the day America had government officials who openly support legal infanticide,' Rubio tweeted.

Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin was also among those tweeting their anger at the bill: 'First New York, and now a proposed Virginia bill that would legalize abortion up to the moment of birth.

'This is a sad commentary on the culture of death that continues to creep insidiously into the laws of our [country].'

Pastor Jentezen Franklin, of the Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia, said he was 'absolutely appalled' by Northam's comments.

'What he said is the most horrifying statement I've ever heard from a politician in my lifetime. The radical left has been using euphemisms to sugarcoat abortion and all that it entails for decades now, but they cannot escape what Governor Northam said with any sort of finely crafted medical explanation. He is clearly describing infanticide,' he said.

'I never thought I'd see the day when anyone, Republican or Democrat, would ever suggest anything remotely close to what he has outlined. Children are a precious gift from our Creator.

'Why some folks suggest that we need more ways to eliminate them is beyond my comprehension.

'May God protect us from any further steps down this barbaric and evil path that abortion supporters continue to advocate for in this country.'

Northam, a pediatric neurologist, defended his comments on Twitter, stating: 'I have devoted my life to caring for children and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting.'

His office also issued a statement saying that Northam had only been speaking about a 'nonviable pregnancy or severe fatal abnormalities' and that his comments had been taken out of context 'in bad faith'.

The controversy follows on from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's controversial signing of a bill last week making it easier for women to access abortion up to birth. 

There were calls for Cuomo, a Catholic, to be excommunicated but Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, said that such a move would be 'counterproductive'.

President Donald Trump seized on the debate to blast the Democrats.

'Democrats are becoming the Party of late term abortion, high taxes, Open Borders and Crime!' he tweeted on Thursday morning.