GOP Misinterpretation Leads to Misguided Outrage Against Northam

For a while, the conservative feather in the Democratic Party (that’s yours truly for the uninitiated) thought it best to keep his head down as an abortion argument blew up all over Virginia. However, time has revealed that much of the outrage has been driven by serious misinterpretation of Governor Northam’s WTOP comments (and possibly of some other things).

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, this all began with a discussion in the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee #4 of a bill by Delegate Kathy Tran to loosen certain abortion restrictions in Virginia. The one that got everyone’s attention was the three-doctor-approval requirement for a late-term, post-viability abortion.

Tran’s bill would have reduced that number to one. Delegate Tran arguably made things worse for herself politically when she admitted that such an abortion could occur just before birth. However, one didn’t need the quote to see the bill would make it much easier for a pre-born child to die, a fact Republicans ensured was known to anyone who would listen.

At that point, we were still in familiar territory: Republicans insisting that Tran et al had a callous disregard for pre-born children even unto the point just before birth, Democrats insisting that it’s just more complicated and tragic than that. We’ve had these arguments before, and usually, Democrats lose them.

Whatever Americans may think about the complications of abortion, “fetal viability” has long been the tipping point for enough Americans (and Virginians) to move from pro-choice to pro-life. Republicans buried the bill and reminded the electorate of that. They even scored an additional political victory when Tran’s co-sponsor and fellow Democrat, Dawn Adams, walked away from it.

Then Governor Northam went on WTOP.

The Governor touched upon a bunch of topics, including Tran’s bill and her comments. Northam came to Tran’s partial defense, with a context-severed quote most of you good readers have likely already seen.

What you may not have seen was the preceding context, added here (from WTOP link, emphasis added).

Tran’s bill would reduce the number of doctors required to certify late-term abortions from three to one. It also would delete the words “substantially and irremediably” when referring to the threat that continuing a pregnancy poses for impairing a woman’s health.

“I wasn’t there and I certainly can’t speak for Delegate Tran,” Northam said, but he added, “This is why decisions should be made by providers, physicians, mothers and fathers.”

Northam, a doctor, said that such procedures happen “where there may be severe deformities [or] a fetus that’s nonviable.”

He explained, “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 desire, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Contrary to the Republican outrage factory’s assertion, Northam is not saying any child who survives the procedure should be put to death if the “discussion” goes that way. He was only describing some obviously very particular hard cases.

Still, the GOP misinterpretation fed their narrative: only the 72 Republican Delegates and Senators can prevent Northam from signing Tran’s bill into law and turning Virginia into a state that kills abortion survivors and legalizes infanticide.

There’s only one problem with that: it’s a further misinterpretation.

For starters, in the same interview, Northam disagreed with the one-doctor provision (same link).

He said that he would still support the notion of requiring certification from more than one doctor: “I think it’s always good to get a second opinion.”

So even if a Democratic General Assembly were to pass Tran’s bill in 2020 (a risky bet given Adams’ change of heart), it would face – at best – a line-item veto from Northam taking out the very provision that started this whole argument.

Of course, that would still mean children who survive abortion would be in trouble, right? Wrong (back to the RTD):

Tran’s bill would not have eliminated a requirement that life support be available and used if an aborted or miscarried fetus shows signs of viability.

So to recap, the Republican Party of Virginia has united with remarkable cohesion (for it) on a bill that:

  1. No longer has the undivided support of Democrats in the legislature
  2. Doesn’t do what the RPV claims it does
  3. Is opposed in part by Governor Northam …
  4. … who did not endorse full-blown infanticide as the RPV claims

Abortion is a difficult enough issue to discuss when information is interpreted properly. My attempt to build a bridge between saving pre-born children and respecting the personal rights of women (from More Perfect Union Podcast about half a year back) sank beneath the competing waves of outrage once it reached social media. When one adds misinterpretations – deliberate or accidental – we end up with outrage signaling that gets no one anywhere.