Donald Trump has said he will push for legislation to end late-term abortions and protect babies “who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.
In a statement clearly designed to appeal to the Evangelical Christians who have been among his strongest supporters, the president attacked the state of New York, which last month passed legislation intended to defend a woman’s right to access abortion services amid fear the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v Wade. That 1973 judgement has been considered the bedrock to allow women obtain safe, legal procedures.
The New York state measure – the Reproductive Health Act – has been criticised by conservatives who say it expands access to late-term abortions.
“There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days. Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth,” said Mr Trump.
“These are living, feeling, beautiful, babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.”
He added: “I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.”
Critics of the president claimed he was intentionally seeking to rouse his base by making false claims.
“In an attempt to rile up conservatives, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to repeat abortion opponents’ latest lie,” wrote the progressive website Think Progress.
Indeed, the president mischaracterised two abortion bills in Virginia and New York during his speech to a joint session of Congress. The bills codify rights already established in Roe v Wade. The New York bill was signed into law on the 46th anniversary of the landmark abortion rights case, while the Virginia bill has so far failed to leave a key legislative committee.
As the president was speaking, the White House was bolstering his remarks in a series of press releases.
“President Trump is calling on Congress to defend the dignity and life of every person and pass legislation to prohibit late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb,” it said.
“Recently, our country has witnessed a chilling disregard for life as States have taken up legislation that would expand access to abortion up until just moments before birth.”