Trump Said Former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Supported Infanticide During Presidential Debate, Repeating Years-Old Falsehood

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Former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam "stated he would execute a baby after birth."


Rating: False
Rating: False

During the first presidential debate of the 2024 presidential cycle, former U.S. President Donald Trump referenced a claim that he had spread before regarding former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his stance on abortions.

"The problem they have is they're radical, because they will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth – after birth," Trump said during the debate. "If you look at the former governor of Virginia, he was willing to do this. He said, we'll put the baby aside and we'll determine what we do with the baby. Meaning, we'll kill the baby."

In the aftermath of the debate, we found that the claim spread on social media platforms like X, Facebook and TikTok:

We previously fact-checked this claim in 2019, finding it was mostly false. When we published that fact-check, we sent a list of detailed questions to Northam's office but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Northam was asked during an appearance on a Washington, D.C., radio program whether he supported proposals a Virginia delegate had brought forward regarding the lessening of legal restrictions on second- and third-trimester abortions. The following is a transcript of the relevant exchange, which can be watched in the video embedded below:

Julie Carey: ... There was a very contentious committee hearing yesterday when Fairfax County Delegate Kathy Tran made her case for lifting restrictions on third-trimester abortions, as well as other restrictions now in place. And she was pressed by a Republican delegate about whether her bill would permit an abortion even as a woman is, essentially, dilating, ready to give birth. And she answered that it would permit an abortion at that stage of labor. Do you support her measure? And explain her answer.

Ralph Northam: You know, I wasn't there, Julie, and I certainly can't speak for Delegate Tran, but I would tell you -- one, the first thing I would say, this is why decisions such as this should be made by [healthcare] providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved. When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of, obviously, the mother, with the consent of the physicians -- more than one physician, by the way. And it's done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that's non-viable.

So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. 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 desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.

So I think this was really blown out of proportion, but again, we want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions. And this is why, Julie, legislators -- most of which are men, by the way -- shouldn't be telling a woman what she should and shouldn't be doing with her body.

At the time, we wrote Northam's remarks prompted an immediate backlash, with some right-leaning and pro-life observers claiming that he had expressed support for infanticide. Trump further spread the claim in his 2019 State of the Union address.

Vox quoted a spokesperson for Northam as saying that the governor's comments were "absolutely not" a reference to infanticide but rather "focused on the tragic and extremely rare case in which a woman with a nonviable pregnancy or severe abnormalities went into labor." According to NBC News, a spokesperson for Northam "disputed [President Trump's] characterization" of his comments but did not provide any further clarifying details.

In any case, it's clear Northam didn't say he supported executing or killing babies during the interview. He instead instead described scenarios where a third-trimester abortion would occur and stressed that he didn't believe it's a decision the government should be involved in. As such, we rate this claim as "False."

To get more fact-checks of what Biden and Trump said during the June 2024 presidential debate, here is Snopes' real-time coverage.


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