Trump is a regular corduroy pillow — always making headlines.
Yesterday he did it by manufacturing part of his pro-life position on the spot under questioning from Chris Matthews. Under pressure, he said that there would have to be “some form” of punishment for a woman who procured an abortion. Confident of his ability to wing it on anything, he tried it out here and it did not work out well for him.
There are two things going on here. One is the politics and rhetoric of the thing, and what happened here seems pretty apparent. Trump’s conversion to “pro-life” principles happened fairly recently, and his commitment to pro-choice views before that was decided and extreme. From a distance, the conversion looks pretty opportunistic (he wanted to run as a Republican and knew that the pro-choice thing was a non-starter). This fiasco makes it look even more that way. He has inhabited a pro-choice world for a long time, and had simply accepted the standard caricatures of pro-lifers by the pro-abort crowd. And then, when he adopted the pro-life position (for political convenience), he adopted what he thought it was. In his comments, he mentioned how this was the position of a number of conservatives, thus revealing that he has no idea what he is talking about.
After everybody went up in a sheet of flame over his remarks, a clarifying comment was released by the campaign. The “clarification,” for those interested in such things, was a complete reversal of what he had said earlier.
So the problem with his remarks is that this is not the pro-life position. This is not what pro-lifers are proposing in their legislation. “Punishing the women” is not what the movement is about.
But here is the second thing. Suppose you are in a conversation with a thoughtful advocate of abortion. Suppose he is not a rabid agitator, and is not trying to slander anyone. He is willing to have an intelligent conversation with you. Suppose further he says something like, “Yes, I know that you do not want to punish the mothers. What I don’t understand, given all the rhetoric about ‘abortion is murder,’ is why you don’t want the mothers to face some consequences. Doesn’t your refusal to say what Trump just said undercut what you are saying abortion actually is? Murder is murder, right?”
This is a subject that does need to be addressed carefully — the objection has argumentative weight, in other words. Here is a brief answer, with a promise of more to come.
We are dealing with millions of cases. It is the view of politically active pro-lifers that the penalties should fall on those who know what they are doing. Medically trained doctors know exactly what they are doing. The ghouls at Planned Parenthood know exactly what they have been selling.
And the view about the mothers, taken as a class, is that they have been fraudulently manipulated into a form of negligent manslaughter. That kind of problem is best answered with information — ultrasounds and more. This is why pro-lifers for decades have offered support, information, care, and medical services to mothers. The laws have been aimed at doctors who were after the blood money. And in the main, this has been a very effective and reasonable distinction.
Now of course you will have some cases where the mothers know just as much as the abortionists do. Say that an abortionist gets pregnant herself, and then procures a late term abortion. It would make no sense to maintain that she was not guilty of anything because “motherhood.” But that kind of rare case is not what the political battle is over.
The political battle is over the merchants of blood, the women they lie to, and the children they kill.