Trump Sabotaging the Pro-Life Movement

Posted on April 23, 2024 By

The Consistent Life Network is a nonpartisan organization that encourages individual writers to express a variety of views, and the views expressed in its blog are the writers’ own.

by Rachel MacNair

Because (among other backtracking among Republicans recently) Donald Trump recently announced his position on abortion as being that it should be left to the states – without encouraging the states to have laws protecting the victims – several conservative pro-life writers who have opposed Trump for a while have made some interesting points.

Conservative Insights

Russell Moore

 

I like the way the editor of Christianity Today, Russell Moore, who identifies himself who as “both pro-life and anti-Trump” put it in a CNN interview. He commented on the people who are “pro-life with three exceptions: rape, incest, and declining poll numbers.” He pointed out this isn’t “a compelling moral vision.”

 

The New York Times and The Washington Post had three columns on Trump’s announcement by writers who also contribute to The National Review, the magazine founded by William F. Buckley. The newspapers want to diversify their opinion pieces with conservative views, and offering different perspectives has always been in the Buckley tradition.

Ramesh Ponnuru

Ramesh Ponnuru, The Washington Post, April 10, 2024:

Ponnuru is the editor of National Review, and decades ago when he was a student at Princeton invited me to speak there as Feminists for Life of America president.  He drew a parallel with the 1858 Lincoln–Douglas debates on slavery. Douglas argued slavery policy should be set state by state, to reflect the will of the people. That’s what Trump is advocating now, and “He expresses no hope that states will protect unborn children, specifying only what exceptions he wants any law to have. That indifference to the pro-life cause is probably his most honest statement of his views in years.”

Ross Douthat, The New York Times, April 10, 2024:

They changed the title, but I prefer the original: How the Pro-Life Movement’s Deal With Trump Made America More Pro-Choice. I quote directly:

Ross Douthat

The problem for pro-lifers is that these efforts at persuasion have become markedly less effective over a timeline that overlaps closely with Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. The captivity of abortion opponents, in this sense, isn’t about the specific policy stances that Trump might choose and that they might then have to reluctantly accept. It’s about the ways in which a Trumpist form of conservatism seems inherently to make Americans more pro-choice . . .

[O]ne does not need to be a monocausalist to see how the identification of the anti-abortion cause with his particular persona, his personal history and public style, might have persuaded previously wavering and ambivalent Americans to see the pro-life movement differently than they did before.

If you set out to champion the rights of the most vulnerable human beings while promising protection and support for women in their most vulnerable state, and your leader is a man famous for his playboy lifestyle who exudes brash sexism and contempt for weakness, people are going to have some legitimate questions about whether they can trust you to make good on your promises of love and care . . .

That’s the price of the bargain abortion opponents made. The deal worked on its own terms: Roe is gone. But now they’re trapped in a world where their image is defined more by the dealmaker’s values than by their own.

David French, The New York Times, April 11, 2024 

French mentions that he agrees with Ponnuru’s column (see above), and words things much more sharply in The Great Hypocrisy of the Pro-Life Movement:

David French

I’d been a part of the pro-life movement my entire adult life. I began my activism in college and represented pro-life students and pro-life groups in my legal career, and I’d never seen a desire for subjugation and control. While I don’t pretend that any political movement is perfect, I’ve seen with my own eyes pro-life activists and volunteers demonstrate immense love and compassion for women in distress, trying desperately to care for mother and child by offering financial, emotional and spiritual support.

But now I’m left wondering how much of the movement was truly real . . . Trump’s advice to voters was to “follow your heart” and “do what’s right for your family, and do what’s right for yourself.” It’s “all about the will of the people,” he said.

This is the most pro-choice position a Republican presidential candidate has taken since at least Gerald Ford. And how did the pro-life establishment respond? With mild criticism, but also with immediate support . . .

Even more ominously from a pro-life perspective, the abortion rate rose under Trump . . .

It’s hard to argue you’re a movement rooted in love when you enthusiastically unite behind a fundamentally hateful man.

French also gives personal experience, which I must say doesn’t comport with my own personal experience. But he may get more attention and does get that attention identified as a conservative:

At its worst, the pro-life movement was also deeply cynical. Many of its members have spent the last eight years mocking and bullying pro-life conservatives who’ve refused to support Trump, even when we rightly said he was a terrible ambassador for a virtuous cause. I’ve been called a baby-killer or murderer or heretic more times than I can count. Commitment to Trump was the ultimate test of your pro-life convictions. Yet now he is taking the most pro-choice position of any Republican presidential nominee in two generations, and all the largest pro-life groups continue to bend the knee.

He concludes: “There is no truly pro-life party in the United States.”

My Thoughts

Rachel MacNair

As a consistent-lifer, I’ve long held the conclusion that French just recently came to. Republicans have had policies on war and the death penalty that don’t fit the bill. They’ve been inadequate on poverty-reduction programs that have merit on their own but would also reduce abortions. Yet Republicans have never really been good enough on abortion just as a single issue either. So many of the office-holders haven’t educated themselves enough about the issue to be able to articulate persuasively and effectively. They certainly have never given it the priority it deserves.

This is one of the points I stress about the advantages of consistent-life candidates. There are very few of them, and what we do find is mainly for lower office and of course in our member group the American Solidarity Party. But precisely because they aren’t prominent, you can come much closer to counting on them. A consistent-life candidate is more likely to be sincere. They’re also more likely to have thought it through carefully, because they’ve had to articulate it to skeptics more than just employing platitudes.

Even from a single-issue anti-abortion point of view, abortion is an issue where there are just too many politicians who take the position to get votes and don’t even try to understand it well. So it’s no wonder that when they found that it was no longer a stand with no policy implications except around the margins, but that practical policy could actually be advanced, they didn’t have the skill set necessary to come up with creative or persuasive solutions.

I report on these conservative writers because though they aren’t advocates of the consistent life ethic and probably aren’t that familiar with it (if they’ve heard of it at all), they’re having the kinds of insights that consistent-lifers commonly have. The same truth can be found from different perspectives, after all. Especially truth based on people whose thoughts are guided by compassion and principle.

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Also of interest, former Vice President Mike Pence (who was unambiguously pro-Trump before 2021) weighed in with

Donald Trump Has Betrayed the Pro-Life Movement (The New York Times, April 20, 2024).

 

This quotation added on July 3, 2024:

Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, July 1, 2024

Referring to the debate between Biden and Trump on June 27, 2024, Lopez makes the negative case for her title question, The Most Pro-life President?  

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Trump was right to call out Democratic extremism on abortion. But the second question of the debate called out both candidates’ ignorance on the issue. “First of all, the Supreme Court just approved the abortion pill, and I agree with their decision to have done that, and I will not block it,” Trump said. The Court did no such thing. It issued a decision on the abortion-pill case based not on the merits or safety of chemical abortion but on whether the plaintiff had standing for the case, which in no way indicated approval of chemical abortion. Trump’s words in support of abortion pills were callous. Chemical abortion, increasingly the default method of abortion, is a bloody abandonment of pregnant girls and women.

 

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For updated information on an aspect of elections we can get behind, see our project website:

Peace and Life Referendums

For more of our blog posts on political dynamics, see:

The Deserving and Undeserving Poor vs. the Worthy and Unworthy of Life: How Both Major Political Parties Pick and Choose Who They Help and Whom They Kill

What History Shows: The Consistent Life Ethic Works for Pro-life Referendums

Elections 2020: Three Consistent-Life Approaches

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (about the American Solidarity Party)

How Consistent-life Advocacy Would Benefit from Ranked-Choice Voting

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  1. Antifascist says:

    Trump is an absolute disaster, mostly because of his political style (lets face it he didn`t had a strong oponent in 2020 when he lost) and now he has shown not to be really pro-life, but lets face it, Biden is much more worst with his commitment to legalize abortion until birth all over the United States. To vote for Biden is much worst than voting pro-abortion, this time is really voting for a radical pro-abortion stance, which sees unborn human life meaningless. For those who wanted to see Trump and Biden politically gone from the 2024 presidential election, unfortunately they seem to be once again running for office. If Biden wins once again we will be facing a radical anti-life President. if Trump returns to the White House there will be once again a political freak show in the house. Both candidates are evil for different reasons. Even if I say that Trump would be the lesser evil on abortion, he still will be evil, in this issue and others. I admire the honesty of Abby Johnson and Lila Rose, two strong pro-lifers, to have reject totally both candidates this time, including Trump.

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