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Trump tries to balance the abortion issue

Former President Donald Trump announced this week that the abortion question should be left up to the states. “Many states will be different,” Trump said in a scripted video statement. “At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.”

Trump’s reluctance to support a nationwide abortion ban has angered many in the pro-life movement. Marjorie Dannenfelser, who runs Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said Trump has taken a “morally indefensible position.” Republican Senator and Trump supporter Lindsey Graham said Trump was making a mistake.  Trump’s former vice president Mike Pence called Trump’s decision a “slap in the face to millions of pro-life Americans.”

I wonder what the pro-life movement realistically expected. Did they really convince themselves that Trump was morally committed to the anti-abortion cause? If they did, it was a serious lapse in judgement for several reasons.

Trump’s moral compass, assuming he has one, has always been malleable. Back in 1999 when he thought about running for president, he said he was “very pro-choice.” Last February, the man who has had affairs and said he could easily get away with grabbing women “by the p—-,” told religious broadcasters that as president he would defend Christian values.

Some on the right accuse Trump of playing politics with the abortion issue. Well, yes. He is a politician who is trying to win an election.

Trump knows that federal limits on abortion would risk alienating some of the voters he desperately needs. Democrats are making abortion a major issue following the Dobbs decision and it worked for them in 2022. They are using that playbook again, and Trump is trying to contain the issue.

A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation Poll shows that support among voters for abortion in all or most cases has increased since Dobbs, up from 58 percent in 2015 to 71 percent today. Seventy-two percent of adults said they supported women obtaining pills needed for a medical abortion, while only 26 percent opposed it.

As Trump said in his video, “Always go by your heart, but we must win.”

For half a century, the north star of the pro-life movement has been overturning Roe v. Wade. Trump was able to accomplish that by appointing three U.S. Supreme Court Justices who tilted the Court in favor of rolling back Roe. Trump can reasonably ask why that is not enough, and he correctly stated that Dobbs sent the issue back to the states.

That empowered the pro-life movement to make their arguments at state capitols. Since then, at least 15 states, including West Virginia, have passed laws prohibiting abortions with rare exceptions. Another 13 state legislatures have passed abortion laws that are “very restrictive” or “restrictive.”

And finally, Trump is unpredictable. His position on abortion is for political expedience; it is not a decision based on a deeply held principle. If elected, he could change his mind on the first day in office and introduce a bill banning all abortions. Who knows?

But for now, Trump is handling the abortion issue with political kid gloves. Anyone in the pro-life movement who expected a morally principled position was naïve about the true nature of the candidate.




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