Saturday, April 2, 2016

Donald Trump's abortion checkbox

The biggest problem with Donald Trump's awkward answer to Chris Matthews' abortion question is not that he took a particular position that people may agree or disagree with. The problem is that his answer makes it reasonably clear that he hadn't spent ten seconds in serious thought about abortion from a governmental perspective before Matthews asked the question. Republicans are supposed to be pro-life, so Donald Trump is pro-life. Box checked. 
"What do you mean there's more to it than that?"
In a rare display of a willingness to consider the broader ramifications of his actions, Trump issued two clarifications of his initial answer within hours - eventually getting to what has been the general pro-life position on the question for over a century. Unfortunately, the toothpaste isn't going back in the tube that easily. There are reasons that having statesmen that approach the office of the presidency with certain level of sobriety is a good thing.

There are profound differences between the world of "reality TV" and the world of "reality reality". In the real world, the statements of presidents and even presidential candidates have real influence beyond the scope of their individual agendas. My suspicion is that Mr. Trump's position evolved so quickly because credible people in the pro-life movement converged on the Trump campaign in a panic in response to Trump's off the cuff remarks about legally punishing women that seek abortions (in the hypothetical eventuality that abortion were to be outlawed). But that's just my guess.

What isn't a guess is that at the same time Trump was in the process of walking back his initial statements, his apologists were rushing to the defense of what they perceived to be a position statement consistent with his no-nonsense, politically-incorrect-charm; to the point that many are now expressing regret over his capitulation to political correctness in modifying his original comment. The messaging that Trump's initial comment was refreshingly honest commonsense truth has snowballed through talk radio and social media over the past couple of days. Unfortunately, what Dr. Jeffress and other Trump mouthpieces have missed, and Trump may have surprisingly picked up on, is that defense of this argument is damaging to the pro-life movement, is directly at odds with forty plus years of post-Roe messaging, disagrees with over a hundred years of history, disregards intentional legal precedent, and legitimizes the pro-abortion crowd's long running claims that pro-lifers should be distrusted because they don't care about women.

It really would be nice if we could stop for a nanosecond to wonder if there might be a reason that what Trump said is not the typical position of the pro-life industry before leaping into damage control mode on behalf of a politician. The rush to circle the wagons around Donald Trump comes with a price. Abortion issues extend beyond legal or political issues. These are issues of the human condition, and of culture. Today abortion is legal, and pro-life efforts have to continue to reduce the prevalence of abortion in that context. Everyday in America thousands of people get up and go to work at a job where one of the challenges they face is convincing women that someone cares about them and their unborn baby. Convincing desperate women that they are not facing their situation alone is a more difficult task today than it was before Donald Trump responded to a question for which he had no appreciation of the magnitude.

On Friday we were treated to two more abortion positions from the Trump campaign; bringing his total number of positions on this issue to five in one week. In an interview with CBS on Friday Trump clarified that his position is that abortion laws "...are set, and I think we have to leave it that way." A Trump campaign spokesman later "clarified" further by stating that Trump just meant the laws should be left that way until Trump is in office. So all of you folks that were expecting Trump to take executive action before he takes office should just keep that in mind.

So in one week Trump has breathed new life into the democrat's "war on women" charge, sown distrust for pro-life activists in the minds of women they want to help, and spurred a broad spectrum of Trump apologists to take to the airwaves with counter-productive messages undoing forty plus years of pro-life messaging. Then he makes it all some sort of demented April fools joke by settling on the position that "...the laws are set" and he'll just leave it that way. But hey, he's pro-life. Box checked!

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