At a Saturday MAGA rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, President Donald Trump set some time aside for one of his favorite pastimes: spreading lies about later abortions.
During a lengthy speech in which he targeted Wisconsin’s Democratic governor Tony Evers, who has promised to veto a bill that could send doctors to jail for life if they fail to provide adequate medical care to infants born alive after failed abortion attempts, Trump repeated an incendiary — and patently false — claim about doctors “executing babies.”
“The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully,” he said. “And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
A terrible lie, which, as many critics have already pointed out, is just the sort of statement to turn his base to violent anger.
Trump’s comments prompted unequivocal criticism from activists, politicians, and health-care professionals:
This is not the first time Trump has made such an outlandish claim: Back in February, he launched a similar attack on Virginia governor Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist by trade, after comments he made about third-trimester abortions “done in cases where there may be severe deformities” or where the fetus is not viable were misconstrued by Republicans. Here, Trump employed the same aggressive language of “executing babies” once they’d been born and wrapped in a blanket — a startling escalation from his false insistence on the campaign trail that Democrats wanted to make it legal to “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”
We’ve heard this type of deranged comment from Trump enough to realize that demonizing later abortions — and the doctors who provide them — is a bona fide strategy for him. But this overlooks how uncommon such procedures are, and how complicated the circumstances that surround them often are. According to the most recent data from the state Department of Health Services, only one percent of all abortions in Wisconsin in 2017 were performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That same report showed that there were no complications reported in 92 percent of abortion cases that year and no reports of failed abortions resulting in live births.
Additionally, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week, Governor Evers said the so-called “born alive” bill was introduced “to create division,” as versions of its protections already exist on the books. The legislation would simply intimidate doctors who perform abortions by creating loopholes to enforce harsh penalties in extremely rare circumstances.
Trump continues to warp the experience of third-trimester abortions — typically, wanted pregnancies that go off the rails for a number of health-related reasons — to incite anger and rile up his base. To help create this alternate reality, he and his Republican henchmen have furnished the terms of wartime atrocity, where fetuses are “survivors,” health-care providers and mothers are “executioners,” and evil is born into this world with every flourish of a Democrat’s veto pen. And as long as he can get away with it, he will keep doing so.