US & Canada

Virginia late-term abortion bill labelled 'infanticide'

A woman at a Virginia abortion clinic Image copyright Getty Images

A bill that would have removed restrictions on late-term abortions in Virginia has led to a conservative outcry.

The Democrat who sponsored the measure said it would allow abortions at any point in pregnancy up until the point of childbirth in certain cases.

Critics said the bill, which failed on Monday to be voted out of subcommittee, would have allowed infanticide.

US President Donald Trump predicted the measure would energise his supporters.

"This is going to lift up the whole pro-life movement like maybe it's never been lifted up before," he told the Daily Caller in an interview published on Wednesday.

What did the bill propose?

Under current Virginia law, third-trimester abortions are only permitted if the risk to the mother's life is "substantial and irremediable" - language that Democrats wanted removed.

The Democratic bill sought to allow for late-term abortions if the mother's physical or mental safety were at risk .

The procedure would also have required sign-off by only one doctor, rather than the three required under existing law.

What did Democrats say?

Virginia's Democratic Governor Ralph Northam defended the bill in an interview to radio station WTOP.

The paediatric neurologist said the measure allowed termination "in cases where there may be severe deformities" or when there is a "foetus that's not viable" outside the womb.

"So in this particular example, if a mother's in labour, I can tell you exactly what would happen," he told WTOP's Ask the Governor programme Wednesday.

"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."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Governor Northam

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After Republicans accused him of advocating for infanticide in his remarks, his spokeswoman said that he was only discussing cases of "tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe foetal abnormalities".

"The governor's comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labour."

A video of one of the bill's sponsors, Kathy Tran, defending the measure has sparked uproar.

What did Republicans say?

Mr Trump said: "Do you remember when I said Hillary Clinton was willing to rip the baby out of the womb? That's what it is. That's what they're doing. It's terrible."

The Republican caucus in the Virginia House of Delegates tweeted: "Democrats proposed legislation to allow abortions up to just seconds before that precious child takes their first breath."

"Thankfully, our strong conservative majority was able to defeat this bill," they added.

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