Washington Post goes with 'conservative backlash' over Gov. Northam's comments on abortion bill

Whenever the media doesn’t want to talk about a story that makes Democrats look bad, they talk about conservatives seizing on it instead. So here we go again. The Washington Post decided to cover the Virginia abortion bill in the wake of Gov. Northam being asked about it on the radio today. But, true to form, the paper’s headline focuses on the reaction of conservatives rather than on the issue of late-term abortion itself: “Va. Gov. Northam faces fierce conservative backlash over abortion bill.”

Whoever is writing headlines for the Post these days may not know this but it’s not just conservatives who have a problem with late-term abortion. Last year Gallup wrote a story about the historical trends and the bottom line is that support for legal abortion after 6 months is currently at 13 percent. There are exceptions, such as the when the mother’s life is in danger or the child was conceived through rape, but late-term abortion is not popular in America (or anywhere really). The opposition to it isn’t limited to right-wingers.

And that’s especially true when the abortion is taking place on a viable child that is about to be born. That’s precisely the situation Kathy Tran, the Virginia delegate promoting the bill, was asked about this week. She admitted her bill would allow such an abortion to take place. Today, Gov. Northam was asked to explain that take. That’s what the story is about but at the Post the “intense backlash” is the lede:

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense backlash on Wednesday for comments he made about a fellow Democrat’s abortion-rights bill, whose sponsor said it would allow abortion right up to the final moments of pregnancy.

In a radio interview, Northam was asked about the bill brought by Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) which sought to roll back restrictions on abortion, including those that take place in the third trimester of pregnancy…

Ofirah Yheskel, a spokeswoman for Northam, said “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,” she said.

Here’s the problem. When Kathy Tran was discussing the bill it didn’t appear that it said anything about limiting late-term abortions to “tragic or difficult circumstances.” All the bill requires is that one doctor, who could be a late-term abortionist by trade, sign off on a statement that the woman’s mental health would be in danger if she went through with the birth. And as was pointed out by Alex Griswold, there’s some evidence, contra Northam’s spokeswoman, that women seeking late-term abortions aren’t primarily doing so because of nonviable pregnancies or fetal abnormalities:


To be clear, Gov. Northam may have been talking about a non-viable baby as his spokeswoman claims. In fact, that was my initial take on his comments and I said so on Twitter. However, it’s not clear that the bill itself makes any such distinction. And if the bill doesn’t make that distinction then it doesn’t actually matter if Gov. Northam introduced it in his answer (probably as a way to sidestep the issue). Because if what Northam describes were to happen to a viable baby, it would be infanticide. And you don’t have to be a conservative to find that objectionable.

Rather than deal with that thorny issue or the fact that late-term abortion is spectacularly unpopular, the Post is going with “conservative backlash” as the headline. Some things are as reliable as the sun rising in the east.