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Trump and the Truth about Being "Pro-life"

The “interrupter in chief,” as Rachel Maddow has dubbed Chris Mathews, pulled from Donald Trump a compelling admission: From the far-right wing of the nation’s political stage where he has set up camp, a woman who has an abortion is a criminal and deserving of some, yet unspecified, punishment. Later in the evening his people tried to walk this one back but it was far, far too late. The cat, so they say, is out of the bag.

Mathews caught Trump in an unscripted moment where he was forced to actually think rather than rattle off another of his well-rehearsed, if often incoherent, buzzlines. The result was telling.

But it’s not just the insanity of criminalizing abortion, there’s a deeper motivation behind Trump and others who hold such a position. Trump repeated several times that he’s “pro-life” and even tried to turn the tables on “Tweetie-bird” (the moniker many viewers use for Mathews), by asking him what he thinks about abortion given his avowed Catholicism. Mathews wouldn’t have any of it, noting a subtlety that eluded Trump: the Catholic church doesn’t make laws, it makes moral pronouncements.

So what’s the deeper motivation? Why are conservatives (though it’s just weird to use that label for Trump) so anti-abortion?

Because they are against women having sexual relations for pleasure and not specifically for the aim of procreating.

That’s it. Dead simple. A woman who violates this dictum and becomes pregnant shall be punished. The punishment most favor is to be compelled to carry to term an unwanted baby and, barring giving the infant up for adoption, the additional burden of having to care and nurture the child to adulthood. In passing, it’s worth nothing that this attitude towards women has echoes in the fundamentalist orthodoxies of all three of the world’s great religions but that’s an essay for another day.

Anti-abortionists like Trump like to wrap the noble-sounding mantle “pro-life” about their shoulders. That claim is quite simply, bullshit. If they really held humane, pro-life values it would be obvious in their larger socio-political philosophies and priorities. To be pro-life is to support Planned Parenthood’s reproductive health clinics, their STD screening programs, their birth-control advice. Instead they seek to close PP down. If you give these women easy and cheap access to birth control measures, if you clear up their STDs they’ll just go out and have sex without procreative intent.

To be pro-life is to be for pre- and post-partum medical care for women, to back paid parental leaves, support pre-school programs, advocate expanding Head Start, agitate for full funding for education, support grants for bio-medical research into genetics and the causes of infant mortality.

Conservative back none of these because they’re not pro-life. They never were. That label is a sham, a cover for a deep hatred, a dangerous misogyny. They’re anti-abortion, pure and simple, and it’s because, in their minds, the only women who would ever want an abortion were ones who violated their antiquated moral code and fucked for fun.

It’s telling that most “pro-lifers” would allow abortion in cases of rape or incest.[1] In these cases the woman didn’t have fun so she’s not guilty. 

The Guttmacher Institute studies the demographics of abortions. What the data show is that women do not use it as a birth control method, as some critics claim. It’s mothers of three who cannot afford raising another child, twenty-somethings beginning a career, naive sixteen year-olds who got a little loose and frisky at a party, wives whose husband’s condom failed, women who simply miscounted the days since their last period, college students planning on going for an MBA after graduation and on and on.

These women are the ones who are pro-life, their lives and the lives of the children they will willingly, lovingly have and raise later when they’re ready.

Flo Kennedy: “If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

Barney Frank: “Republicans think life begins at conception and ends at birth.”


[1] Except for Cruz who holds a consistent, if cruel, position that abortion should always be illegal no matter the circumstances of conception.

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