After Democratic lawmakers moved to protect abortion rights in New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island, right-wing media responded with a flurry of inaccurate allegations that their efforts promoted “infanticide.”
Democratic legislators propose measures to protect abortion rights
Democrats have recently pushed measures at the state level to protect or expand abortion access. On January 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act, changing a pre-Roe v. Wade state law that criminalized abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy to now allow abortions “when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk” with the consent of a doctor. Legislators in Virginia also introduced a bill in January that would protect abortion rights by eliminating some restrictions on abortion care, including one currently requiring three doctors to consent for a patient’s third-trimester abortion. (On January 29, a video of the bill’s Democratic sponsor discussing the legislation went viral among right-wing media circles.) In addition, legislators in Rhode Island have introduced two bills that would protect abortion access to the point of viability. [New York magazine, 1/23/19; The Post-Standard, 1/22/19; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/30/19; WPRI.com, 1/29/19]
Despite the right-wing media’s portrayal, these bills do not allow “infanticide.” As Forbes’ Tara Haelle explained in 2016, people who need later abortions “are seeking them before a pregnancy reaches full term but often and unfortunately after they have discovered in the second or third trimester some problem with the fetus or danger to the mother.” Later abortions, although often medically necessary, are extremely rare: Slightly more than 1 percent of all abortions are performed past the 21-week mark. [The New York Times, 10/20/16; Media Matters, 1/29/19 1/30/19, 1/30/19; Forbes, 10/20/16; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 1/31/19]
Right-wing media rush to label law as “infanticide”
In the last week, Fox hosts and guests have used the word “infanticide” 35 times in discussions of the bills. According to a Media Matters review of transcripts from the media monitoring service SnapStream, Fox News figures used the word “infanticide” at least 35 times during coverage related to the bills that expand and protect abortion access between January 24 and noon on January 31. In all but one of the instances, the speaker was either asserting that the bills amounted to legalizing infanticide, or quoting someone who was making that argument. The one outlier was Fox contributor and former Democratic strategist Jessica Tarlov, who told Sean Hannity the New York law is “not infanticide.”
Sean Hannity: “This week, the state of New York legalized late-term abortions up to the ninth month. That would be called infanticide.” From the January 29 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Time to introduce a brand new segment. Now, sometimes it’s going to be fun, lighthearted. Sometimes it’s going to be more serious. Villain of the day. We’re going to crown a new villain. Tonight, it’s not hard. Look there, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the New York state legislature. Many of you won’t believe this: This week, the state of New York legalized late-term abortions up to the ninth month. That would be called infanticide. Those are children that are viable to live on their own. That makes them the villain of the day, and they should be ashamed of themselves. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/29/19]
Hannity: “If someone says hours before, ‘Oh, I'm having emotional second thoughts,’ and a doctor says, ‘OK,’ then they're allowed to commit infanticide?” From the January 30 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Other similar bills [like the one presented in Virginia legislature] -- why is this the big agenda of the Democrats? Rhode Island, New Mexico, Massachusetts. When they passed a similar law in New York, the governor recently celebrated the passage of a comparable bill that makes late-term abortion even into the ninth month legal, he shrugged off any criticism. He's not here to legislate religion. Well, apparently he's only in the state house to legalize the termination of what is now a viable human life in the ninth month. Now, they are purposely vague in their legislation. They won't give you a definition of “health.” So, if someone says hours before, “Oh, I'm having emotional second thoughts,” and a doctor says, “OK,” then they're allowed to commit infanticide? Now, as it turns out, this party, these people that brag so often and lecture us so often about compassion, don't seem compassionate at all. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/30/19]
Hannity: “You can get an abortion in the seventh month of pregnancy, the eighth month of pregnancy, and the ninth month of pregnancy. That would be called infanticide.” From the January 28 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Get ready, because every Democrat who wants to run for president is about to take that hard turn to appease what is now the radical, extreme, socialist Democratic Party base. Take, for example, possible contender Andrew Cuomo. Now, honest people can have a difference as to when life begins. He just celebrated a bill in New York state making late-term abortion legal. Now, according to, now, New York state, you can get an abortion in the seventh month of pregnancy, the eighth month of pregnancy, and the ninth month of pregnancy. That would be called infanticide. Viable lives can now be destroyed? With the seal of New York, and Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature putting their seal of approval? [Fox News, Hannity, 1/28/19]
Tucker Carlson: What Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was talking about “used to be called infanticide. Not rhetorically, but literally infanticide. Taking the life of a child who is breathing.” From the January 30 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): A discussion about killing the infant? The infant. He’s direct enough to call the infant what the infant is, but, again, “The infant would be delivered and resuscitated if that's what the mother desires,” quote. In other words, the governor of Virginia has just told us in public on camera that it's OK to kill a child after the child has been born. That used to be called infanticide. Not rhetorically, but literally infanticide. Taking the life of a child who is breathing. The governor seemed to just say that. Did he misspeak? Well, you'd hope.
But, no, he didn't. Ralph Northam is a physician. He's a pediatric neurologist, in fact. He’s not some clueless layman who mangled a NARAL talking point. This is really what he thinks. This is what his party thinks. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 1/30/19]
Laura Ingraham: The Democratic Party is promoting “full-on embrace of infanticide.” From the January 30 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle:
LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Why do you think the Democrat Party today is so hell-bent on removing all limitations on abortion? It used to be “safe, legal, and rare,” but now it’s full-on embrace of infanticide, and many Roman Catholic politicians, I might add, advocating for it.
BILL DONOHUE (PRESIDENT, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE): Well, secular militants now run the Democratic Party. The McGovernization started after '68, and it's now in full force. And now you have, in New York, a situation where podiatrists and dentists and optometrists and chiropractors are now allowed to perform late-term abortions in New York under Gov. Cuomo. And in Virginia, you have a man who's justifying infanticide. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/30/19]
Pete Hegseth: New York’s abortion law is an “infanticide law, really.” From the January 29 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): And Cardinal Timothy Dolan rejecting calls to excommunicate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the state’s new abortion law -- infanticide law, really. Dolan says, “Excommunication should not be used as a weapon.” He did not specifically name Cuomo in his statement. Cuomo signed the new law allowing women to abort a baby one day before the due date if it protects their life or health. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/29/19]
Fox’s Andrew Napolitano: “That’s infanticide.” From the January 31 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Isn’t abortion what happens when the mom is carrying the baby? What that doctor is talking about -- or that governor is talking about -- is when you deliver the baby, then they make a decision.
ANDREW NAPOLITANO (FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST): That’s infanticide.
EARHARDT: It is. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/31/19]
Michelle Malkin: “This kind of infanticide goes on under the guise of ‘choice’ and under the guise of ‘reproductive women’s freedom,’ when what it really is about is normalizing infanticide.” From the January 31 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Are we misinterpreting what he said? Is there any -- I mean, I don’t understand how a woman would actually be able to go through with that because they’re actually delivering the baby, and then they have to make a decision as to whether or not to take the baby’s life afterwards because she would have to deliver the child. But have you ever known of any cases like this, I mean, or women that would actually go through with this? Are you worried about that?
MICHELLE MALKIN (COLUMNIST): I am absolutely worried about it, and the abortion lobby, the death lobby, is skilled in obfuscation. All you have to do is look at what happened with the case of Kermit Gosnell to know that this kind of infanticide goes on under the guise of 'choice' and under the guise of 'reproductive women's freedom,' when what it really is about is normalizing infanticide and getting people to accept the evil and barbarism of it. And that’s why there’s so much pushback now. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/31/19]
Other right-wing media figures
Rush Limbaugh: President Donald Trump should use his State of the Union speech to “to talk about the infanticide laws that just passed in New York.” From the January 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show:
RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): I’ve got an idea. I’ve got an idea for Trump’s State of the Union speech next Tuesday. You know what I think he ought to do? I think he ought to mention everything the Democrats -- I think he ought to -- I think he ought to talk about the infanticide laws that just passed in New York and make Democrats applaud this stuff in open and in public.
The president ought to call these people out on all these wacko ideas -- on immigration, open borders, sanctuary cities -- and make these Democrats applaud it. Because that’s what happens. They either sit on their hands or applaud. Call them out. The drive-by media’s not telling anybody what’s going on here. The drive-by media’s not telling people that infanticide has just gotten a standing ovation in the New York state Senate. People that live in New York got up one day -- one night -- and they saw the tops of the buildings lit up in pink and said, “I wonder what that is?” Well, the New York state Senate just legalized infanticide is what that means. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/30/19]
Hugh Hewitt: Democrats support a “horrific infanticide bill.” From the January 30 edition of Salem Radio Network’s The Hugh Hewitt Show:
HUGH HEWITT (HOST): Did you know that big mobile supports Democrats in the state of New York that signed this horrific infanticide bill? Don’t be part of that. If you’re pro-life, you can’t be part of that. Switch today to Patriot Mobile, the only conservative cell phone coverage. [Salem Radio Network, The Hugh Hewitt Show, 1/30/19]
Hewitt: “Do you know that New York passed an infanticide bill?” From the January 31 edition of Salem Radio Network’s The Hugh Hewitt Show:
HUGH HEWITT (HOST): Yesterday, Ralph Northam talked about allowing babies to die unless the mom says, “OK.” Do you want to hear that? No, I can’t listen to it again, it’s so disgusting. Do you know that New York passed an infanticide bill? The privilege that people -- everywhere has one -- you see anyone on the street, they had one privilege: They were allowed to be born and they were not killed in the delivery room. That is quite a privilege. [Salem Radio Network, The Hugh Hewitt Show, 1/31/19]
Ben Shapiro: Democrats are promoting “infanticide.”
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway: Northam supports “infanticide.”
The Federalist’s Sean Davis: “Nothing like supporting literal infanticide to own the cons.”
Erick Erickson: “Democrats view Trump as a monster while championing infanticide. But I’m sure Snopes and other fact checkers will tell us it isn’t true.”
Erickson: “Look at the sudden embrace of infanticide” by Democrats “to see how Nazism could be possible.”
Sarah Palin: “State governments [are] sanctioning infanticide” and “#deathpanels” will be “accepted next.”
Conservative writer David Limbaugh: “Let’s see where the national Democratic Party is on this New York legislative infanticide. Will they condemn it?”
Townhall’s Guy Benson: Virginia abortion bill amounts to “infanticide.”
The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes: “More reminders of why Trump-skeptical conservatives can’t align with Dems: … infanticide.”
Wash. Examiner’s Tim Carney wondered if Northam had “explain[ed] his infanticide comments.”
The Daily Caller reported on Northam’s comments with the headline: “Virginia governor asked about abortion until birth. He floats infanticide.” From the January 30 article:
Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam couldn’t precisely answer whether he supports abortion until birth and suggested an infant could be born and then the mother and doctor could discuss what should happen next, in a Wednesday morning interview.
Aborting a baby after it has been born is illegal.
“Clearly, this kind of legislation is an attempt to create legal infanticide as viable babies are aborted to the cheers of abortion extremists,” Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins said in a statement. [The Daily Caller, 1/30/19]
Conservative Review: If Northam is suggesting the mother “and the physician can decide to abort after birth, we call that infanticide. Murder.” From the January 31 article:
Wednesday morning on a local radio station, Virginia’s Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam defended an extreme abortion bill introduced by state Democrats last month that would legalize late-term abortions up to the point of birth. And then, unprompted, he may have suggested it should be legal to kill a live baby after birth.
Northam was asked about the controversy surrounding an exchange in the Virginia House of Delegates in which Del. Kathy Tran, a Democrat from northern Virginia, was asked by a Republican lawmaker if her bill legalized abortions up to the point at which a mother is about to give birth. Tran admitted her bill would legalize abortions through 40 weeks, even up to the point of birth. Northam tried to downplay the significance of that fact.
What do the physician and the mother possibly have to discuss after the baby has been born? If he’s suggesting she and the physician can decide to abort after birth, we call that infanticide. Murder. [Conservative Review, 1/30/19]
National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru penned an editorial titled “The Infanticide Craze,” writing that Democrats support “killing unborn children at any stage of pregnancy.” From the January 30 article:
Democrats are increasingly explicit in their support for killing unborn children at any stage of pregnancy — and sometimes even of denying normal medical care to born children.
In New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that makes abortion legal, even after the unborn child is viable, so long as the abortionist makes a “reasonable and good-faith judgment” that abortion will protect the pregnant woman’s health. In Rhode Island, Governor Gina Raimondo has pledged to sign legislation that also makes abortion legal after viability to “preserve . . . health.” In Virginia, state legislator Kathy Tran has introduced legislation that would, she has explained, make abortion legal even at term and in the middle of birth.
Supporters of the country’s expansive abortion regime now fear that the Supreme Court will retreat from it, either by declaring that the Constitution permits states to protect unborn children in general or by letting them offer more protection. That’s why they are pushing legislation in the states to codify that regime. It is an effort that is forcing supporters of abortion to be a little more candid about what they really want: an extreme regime that denies any meaningful protection to unborn children and threatens the protection for born ones. [National Review, 1/30/19]
National Review’s David French: Virginia’s abortion bill is “infanticide.” From the January 30 article:
I’m beginning to see some pushback online against claims that Virginia’s so-called “Repeal Act” is as barbaric as pro-life activists claim — or as barbaric as its own sponsor testified. In a now-viral video clip, Democrat delegate Kathy Tran confirmed that the bill would permit third-trimester abortions even when the mother “has physical signs that she’s about to give birth,” including when she’s “dilating.”
The bill reduces the number of doctors required to certify the alleged medical need for an abortion from three to one, and — critically — eliminates any required showing of severity before the doctor and mother can determine that the birth would impair her physical or mental health. Under the bill’s actual text, virtually any claim of impairment would suffice to meet the act’s requirements. Anxiety? Depression? The conventional physical challenges of post-partum recovery? Any of those things could justify taking the life of a fully formed, completely viable, living infant.
That’s infanticide. That’s barbarism. [National Review, 1/30/19]
Townhall: Abortion bill is “nothing less than infanticide.” From the January 31 article:
The Virginia House of Delegates proposed a bill legalizing abortion through all nine months. Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) confirmed that abortion would be available to the mother even while in natural labor, as long as it was for the reason of “mental health.” The definition of “mental health” is obscure in the bill.
Northam specified in the interview that this would typically be in cases where the baby is deformed or isn’t viable. This probably isn’t true, but, even if it were, we’re talking nothing short of eugenics. We’re talking nothing less than infanticide. Yet the real story, according to outlets like The Washington Post and CBS, is the “conservative backlash.” Not that we’re condoning the brutal murder of babies under the guise of sympathy. Not that we’re seeing human selfishness manifest itself in the ugliest way possible. Not that we’re experiencing a fundamental shift in the American conscience. No—the real headline is that we right-wingers are freaking out. [Townhall, 1/31/19]
Video by Leanne Naramore