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Trump’s abortion stance will do far more damage than any conviction that might come his way

former President Donald Trump speaking Right to Life Campaign March For Life rally National Mall Washington DC 2019
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

He’s guilty of wanting states to decide, which is a cop-out to the Christian right and a catalyst for Democrats and moderates.

When I worked on the Hill, anti-abortion activists would overrun the halls of Congress. They were loathsome — and I’m not saying that to offend anyone – in the way they behaved. They were belligerent bullies, and they had no shame. They were obsessed with overturning Roe v. Wade.

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I, unfortunately, sat in on some of the meetings with these advocates when I worked for my hometown congressman. I was horrified by how overtly rude they were, despite the fact that he was on their side. They lectured as opposed to lobbying. They wanted him to try to convince his pro-choice colleagues that they were wrong. They even prayed over him. Their holier-than-thou shtick was revolting.

And, not surprisingly, they were among the meanest people I ever met.

Thirty years after I literally hid from them when they’d swarm our office, the anti-abortion contingent got their wish. And as far as they are concerned, that was only the beginning. They are still going through the halls of Congress, pressing for a national abortion ban. These activists are also storming state legislatures all across the country, particularly in red states. They take no prisoners.

On abortion, you are either pro-life or pro-choice. There is no in-between, most especially from the pro-life side. There are no gray areas. There are no moderate political stances or ways to make both sides happy.

For the staunch pro-lifers, even what seems to be a compassionate stance — exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother — does not fly. Granted, there are some who recognize these gruesome conditions as exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of Christian conservatives feel that if they give in on, say, incest, then everything else will come crashing down.

Monday, abortion came crashing down all over Donald Trump. He wants states to decide on abortion. Pro-lifers want a national law. He also endorsed in vitro fertilization. Pro-lifers feel IVF is a slippery slope. He said he supports those exceptions above. Pro-lifers are for the most part adamantly opposed.

The most important part of what he said was letting states decide, as they do now that Roe has been overturned. And if anyone was unclear about how backward that concept is, on Tuesday, Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that the state must adhere to a 160-year-old law banning abortions that also involves a prison sentence of two to five years for abortion providers.

And last week, Florida’s Supreme Court gave the green light for a six-week ban on abortions to take root but also paved the way for putting a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights on the November ballot.

That’s what happens when you leave it to the states.

Trump’s jumbled – what else is new – four-minute video, released Monday, was an attempt by his campaign to “soften” his abortion stance. It was an unmitigated disaster. By trying to obfuscate his position, he angered both sides, but much more so with pro-lifers, who were furious. And those in the middle? They know what leaving it up to the states means, i.e. the draconian laws, like the one Arizona implemented, and what red states across the U.S. are trying to do.

I daresay that what Trump did yesterday will prove to be far worse for his chances of being reelected than a conviction on any one of his myriad charges.

Why so? First, and most obviously, he did not endorse a national ban, and to those religious extremists in his base, that was cowardly and wrong. After destroying Roe v. Wade, getting a national ban is priority number one for them right now, and they won’t stop until they’ve pushed as far as they can go.

In effect, Trump localized the abortion issue. For example, immediately after his announcement, the Biden campaign released a gut-wrenching video, “Willow’s Box,” about a Texas woman’s nightmare of having a stillborn baby. She was refused an abortion with devastating consequences.

Willow's Box | Biden-Harris 2024www.youtube.com

There are women with horror stories in every state where abortion rights are under siege. Further, where abortion rights, or pro-life candidates have been on the ballot in red states, they’ve won every time, including Kansas, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Trump said in his video that decisions like abortion should be up to mothers, fathers, and families to “do what is right.” But that’s a big lie. By leaving it up to states, Trump is entrusting state legislatures, made up of predominantly crusty, middle-aged, conservative white men, to decide “what is right,” not the families.

One thing is for sure — younger voters, who are overwhelmingly pro-choice, are paying attention, and that’s a demographic that the Republicans need to win in 2024. As these abortion laws pass like dominos around red states, Gen Zers will relocate to states where abortion is legal. You can count on it.

The bottom line is most Christian conservatives will still vote for Trump because to them he’s better than the alternative; however, his wishy-washy abortion stance might make some not cast their ballot for him or keep some of them from leaving their home on Election Day.

Democrats are revved up, and when these ads, like “Willow’s Box,” start airing, they’ll work to convince moderates to be revved up too. Moderates have been the ones helping to support pro-choice causes and candidates even in red states.

Finally, Trump’s abortion stance comes on the heels of the start of his Stormy Daniels hush-money trial. It promises to reveal some seedy and tawdry behavior by Trump, which is another turnoff for Christian conservatives.

Weak on abortion and weak with his libido is not a good combination for Trump.

Most people, or at least those who have a brain, have already decided one way or another, from a very broad menu, that Trump is guilty of something. But the biggest thing he’s guilty of at this moment, and maybe in November, is mangling his stance on abortion.

I’m sure the pro-lifers are trying to find some way to pray over him right now and make him change his mind.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.