Live

Watch CBSN Live

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam addresses controversial abortion comments

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is holding a press conference Thursday afternoon, the day after he made controversial comments describing how a late-term abortion procedure could occur.

At the press conference, a small group of protesters, including a pregnant woman, silently held signs with pictures of infants and captions such as: "Endangered Species in Ralph Northam's Virginia." However, the governor was greeted with cheers and applause from the majority of attendees.

Northam said that "misinformation" had spread about the bill and his comments.

"We're here to set the record straight. Virginia Democrats are on the side of ensuring women get the health care they need," Northam said. Northam also accused Republicans of being uncivil in their response to the bill. "Virginia Democrats know that we're better than that," he said.

"These comments that have made, the questions that have been asked, are nothing more than political points," Northam said about criticism against him, adding that the majority-male legislators in the House of Delegates should not interfere in women's reproductive health choices.

"I regret that those comments have been mischaracterized," Northam said about his comments.

Mark Herring, the Democratic attorney general, also spoke at the event.

"Desperation can be ugly. And what we saw yesterday from Republicans was desperate and ugly," Herring said about Republican response to the bill. He said that claims from Republicans that Northam supports infanticide "would be laughable if it wasn't such a grotesque" idea. A legislator present also said that Republicans had previously introduced anti-abortion bills that "shame and bully women."

A new bill proposed in the state legislature would loosen restrictions on abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy, and allow abortions during the second trimester to take place outside hospitals. The bill would require only one doctor to make the determination that the pregnancy threatens the woman's life or health. The proposed legislation would also eliminate the requirement that abortions during the second trimester be performed in a state-licensed hospital. 

Northam came under fire for comments he made on WTOP radio Wednesday when asked about the bill. 

"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," Northam said. "And it's done in cases where there amy 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."

That prompted swift backlash from Republicans and conservatives.

In an interview with The Daily Caller, President Trump said that Northam's comments were "terrible," and would "lift up the whole pro-life movement like maybe it's never been lifted up before."

"This is horrific," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted. "This is simply pure evil," conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted. 

Ofirah Yheskel, Northam's communications director, issued a statement looking to clarify the governor's comments. 

"Republicans in Virginia and across the country are trying to play politics with women's health, and that is exactly why these decisions belong between a woman and her physician, not legislators, most of whom are men," the statement reads. "Attempts to extrapolate these comments otherwise is in bad faith and underscores exactly why the governor believes physicians and women, not legislators, should make these difficult and deeply personal medical decisions."

Northam himself later commented on the outcry, tweeting late Wednesday, "I have devoted my life to caring for children and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting."

Republicans narrowly control the House of Delegates, so the bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon. A subcommittee voted to table the bill in a 5-3 vote Monday.

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report