Listening to President Donald Trump, one might think that some American women are actually carrying babies to term, going through labor and then conspiring with medical professionals to kill their newborns.
That’s infanticide, and as medical professionals have pointed out since Trump made his frightening remarks at a Saturday rally, this is not what real women and real doctors do.
“When a baby dies in the hospital, it is a very sad thing but it is not something that is ever chosen,” said Julia Pulver, a former neonatal nurse whose tweets debunking the president’s comments went viral. “It is a horrible situation thrust upon parents who want their baby, who have prepared for the baby, who have framed sonograms sitting on their desks.”
At the rally in Wisconsin, Trump accused Democrats of “aggressively pushing extreme, late-term abortion, allowing children to be ripped from their mother’s womb, right up until the moment of birth.” He then claimed that in some cases, babies are even killed after birth.
Referring to a Wisconsin bill that would send doctors to prison if they did not provide adequate care for babies born after a failed abortion attempt, Trump laid out this harrowing scenario: “The baby is born. 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.”
In reality, there are zero instances in which it is legal for a healthy newborn baby to be killed after a conversation between a mother and her physician. It is also extremely rare for a baby to be born after an abortion attempt. That’s because the vast majority of abortions ― over 91 percent ― occur at or before 13 weeks, months before a baby could survive outside the womb.
The recent focus on the alleged horrors of late-term abortions is especially fact-free. Only 1.3 percent of abortions take place after 21 weeks, and experts say these involve pregnancies that endanger the mother (and by extension the baby) or severe fetal anomalies that are incompatible with life. Women in the latter situation are faced with a heartbreaking choice: have an abortion late in pregnancy or wait to deliver, knowing that their newborn will die soon after birth. A family may choose to offer only comfort care to that baby, such as swaddling in a blanket, and allow the newborn to die naturally without painful medical intervention.
Many fetal abnormalities cannot be detected until around 20 weeks, Pulver, the former neonatal nurse, told HuffPost. If something worrisome is found, a woman will generally undergo more tests to confirm the diagnosis. That takes another few weeks. Then once the results are defined, and if an abortion is warranted, the woman may have to leave her home state to access the procedure, depending on where she lives.
“This is why women choose to have later-term terminations,” Pulver said. “It is not because they had it on their to-do list for six months and never got around to it.”
Bills that seek to mandate care for babies born after a failed abortion attempt ― like the Wisconsin bill and the federal Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which Senate Democrats blocked earlier this year ― are not based in reality, she said.
“It is not something that happens,” Pulver said. “It is an emotionally charged premise put out there by non-medical people who want to push an extreme anti-choice agenda.”
She called Trump’s comments cruel and mean-spirited.
“This is one of the worst things that a person can go through, and then to have the president stand up there and negate your entire struggle ... it is despicable,” she said.
Trump’s comments come at a time of renewed energy among anti-abortion politicians and activists, who are emboldened by the new makeup of the Supreme Court. So far in 2019, more than 250 bills restricting abortion access have been introduced in 41 states, according to a report by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Guttmacher Institute.
On Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill that would almost entirely outlaw abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
In a statement on Monday, Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called Trump out for repeatedly spreading falsehoods about abortion.
“What Trump asserted, for the second time, is false, illegal, and simply not happening — nor would it happen,” Hogue said. The president “not only straight-up lied but also vilified women, families, and doctors facing situations every single one of us prays we never encounter.”
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