In an effort to counter-program the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump held a rally in Wisconsin on Saturday. During the course of his speech, he reiterated a dangerous and overt lie about abortion.
Speaking to the crowd, Trump mentioned how “your Democratic governor” — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers — announced he will veto an abortion bill introduced and advanced by Republican state lawmakers. Now, the charged circumstances surrounding this legislation has created a distorted and untrue narrative that is being pushed by the president.
“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 mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby,” Trump said on Saturday to boos from the crowd.
Trump is referring to hypothetical and incorrect circumstances that GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin say they want to prevent with their “born alive” bill. The legislation would require doctors to provide medical care to babies born after failed abortions or risk steep fines and up to life in prison, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The law mirrors a federal bill blocked by Senate Democrats earlier this year — and since then, Trump has been relentlessly crafting a narrative of doctors and women executing babies born after failed abortions. In February, when the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act failed to pass, Trump falsely charged that Democrats support infanticide: “Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children,” he tweeted. “The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth....”
Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children. The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2019
Anti-abortion advocates who support the “born alive” bill want laws clarifying the penalties for failing to care for babies born after failed abortion procedures, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Evers has said the law is redundant: protections for living babies already exist, and medical experts and abortion rights activists alike say that any child born alive is protected by law from the moment of birth.
Furthermore, opponents of the “born alive” bill and similar legislation say this is purposely inflammatory dialogue that omits crucial facts. Abortions after 24 weeks — when a healthy fetus is typically viable — are extremely rare and account for less than 1% of all abortions, per the CDC, reports The New York Times. Even then, these babies are not often healthy. They are not simply wrapped up and handed to their parents: severe birth defects and fatal conditions can keep a child from surviving on their own, or pregnancy complications can put both the mother and the baby at risk of injury or death.
But the debate sparks fear and doubts among women, especially those who don’t have ready access to credible information about the procedure. Depending on one’s state of residence, getting an abortion can already be exceedingly difficult: in Wisconsin, for example, anyone looking for an abortion must undergo in-person counseling, and abortions after 20 weeks are banned barring any severe health complications or life-threatening circumstances for the mother.
Abortion remains far too complex of an issue to reduce to a single political talking point, but Trump is wont to do it — and these untruths sincerely jeopardize the reproductive rights of millions of women across the country.