President Trump Implied Doctors “Execute” Babies at a Rally in Wisconsin
Registered nurse Julia Pulver took to Twitter last week to counter the President’s claims that doctors and nurses choose to “execute” newborn babies after a failed abortion. Pulver recounted her experiences as a NICU nurse caring for mothers whose babies had died soon after birth. Her tweets have since gone viral, challenging the President’s misleading comments on abortion. Learn more about this contentious issue and why Pulver felt the need to speak up.
The President’s Misleading Comments on Abortion
On April 27th at a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, President Trump blasted newly-elected Democratic Gov. Tony Ever’s plans to veto a bill that would have sentenced doctors to life in prison for intentionally failing to provide medical care to babies born alive.
Trump went on to say, “”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 the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don’t think so.”
But Trump’s characterization of the bill is incorrect. At no point do mothers and doctors decide to “execute babies.” The bill would have penalized doctors that decline to provide care for babies born alive, even if the baby was unlikely to survive.
Trump continued, “Until this crazy man in Virginia said it, nobody even thought of that. Did anyone even think of that? You hear late-term, but this is when the baby is actually born, it came out, it’s there, it’s wrapped and that’s it.”
Getting to the Root of the President’s Comments
The President seemed to be referencing Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who recently sparked controversy after offering his support for a bill that would relax regulations for abortions that occur in the second or third trimester.
Northam, a pediatric neurosurgeon, made a statement in January, “[Abortions later in pregnancy are] done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s nonviable. 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.”
Yet Northam’s comments fail to properly characterize abortions that occur later in pregnancy as well. Typically, abortions after 24 weeks are only performed if a fetus is considered nonviable, which means it wouldn’t be able to survive regardless of when the mother gives birth. This includes situations in which a fetus has a deformed or underdeveloped brain or skull, a delayed diagnosis of anencephaly, or a failing heart or lungs.
The phrase “late-term” abortion, as the President stated at the rally, isn’t a medical term. What the President seemed to be referring to are “abortions later in pregnancy” or those that occur during the second or third trimester. Yet, according to the CDC, abortions after 21 weeks account for less than 1.3% of all abortions in the U.S., and those that occur after 24 weeks account for less than 1% of all abortions in the U.S.
There is no evidence to suggest that doctors and mothers decide to “execute” babies that are born alive. A report from Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services shows no data on failed abortions that result in babies being born alive. The CDC has also reported more than 140 infant deaths between 2003 to 2014 that involved induced terminations, but it hasn’t specified what level of care those newborns received.
Nurse Pulver’s Heartbreaking Story
As a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, Julia Pulver spends her days caring for mothers whose babies are unlikely to survive. She wrote on Twitter, “We were a special team of nurses tough enough to help new parents go through the worst day of their lives. Parents of babies who had fought so hard for their tiny little lives and weren’t going to make it.”
“And parents of babies who, after they were born, and wouldn’t have their mom’s body keeping them alive, would die rather quickly. As these small bodies were failing, it was our job to be there with the parents at every step, give them support, and do our best to make some memories of their precious babies that could help ease their impending and overwhelming grief.”
Pulver talked about the lengths to which she and her colleagues would go to comfort these parents as their newborns passed away. They would pray, sing songs, and commemorate the child. She went on to say, “We made special tiny white gowns and hats for our angels. We created a memory box for these families who were losing their child that day.”
At the end of her messages on Twitter, Pulver issued a scathing critique of the President, writing, “NO ONE ever, in any hospital, nor any mother who has just given birth, is conspiring with a doctor on whether or not to commit infanticide. This is perhaps one of the sickest accusations levied by this deranged dictator yet. Don’t believe a word he says about anything important.”
Pulver witnesses heartbreaking stories every day as a NICU nurse. She helps parents say goodbye to their children soon after they’re born. The President’s comments mischaracterize Pulver’s profession and abortions that occur later in pregnancy.