Earlier this year, I wrote an essay for First Things detailing Donald J. Trump’s pivot on abortion and other social issues (with a follow-up in May when he mischaracterized the pro-life movement again). Trump had recently held a party to celebrate the passage of a federal law enshrining same-sex “marriage” in statute—and announced that he opposed any formal role for the federal government in restricting abortion. Trump blamed the pro-life issue for less than stellar results in the midterms while resolutely refusing to note his own record of endorsing weak, lacklustre candidates that were loyal to himself. Despite that, the seeming imperviousness of his personality cult holds—even among many who should know better.
I have been writing for years that Trump has no loyalty to anybody or anything but himself, full stop. He adopts positions if he thinks they serve him; he abandons them just as easily, leaving his loyalists struggling to reframe the narrative in order to explain their support. He swiftly screws over anybody, regardless of how much it has cost them to support him, if he thinks it supports his own interests (the number of bodies behind the Trump Train is now approaching triple digits). Character is, in fact, destiny—and Trump treats both his political positions and his allies much like he treated his wives: easily and unapologetically discarded.
Trump is taking aim at the pro-life movement again. As far as he is concerned, he delivered on many of his promises (for which he certainly deserves credit, but as I’ve detailed before, were almost entirely the initiative of other people), and now everyone should shut up, get in line, and vote for him again. He has emphasized his support for exceptions in any pro-life legislation, and had the gall to confront pro-life leaders with the admonition that politicians “don’t know how to talk about it.” But it gets far, far worse. Trump is now running for president on a platform of attacking his opponents for being too pro-life and condemning laws passed to protect pre-born children.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump delusionally stated that he believes a compromise that would keep the Democrats happy could be found—and then went further. Dodging the question of whether he’d sign a fifteen-week federal abortion ban, he attacked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: “I mean, DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban…” The host cut in: “Would you support that?” Trump was emphatic: “I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” That’s right: Trump called the “heartbeat bills” in Florida, Iowa, Georgia, Ohio, and elsewhere “a terrible thing.” A terrible thing to protect babies in the womb.
Genuinely pro-life politicians were swift to respond. “I don’t know how you can even make the claim that you’re pro-life if you’re criticizing states for enacting protections for babies that have heartbeats,” DeSantis told Radio Iowa. “I think if he’s going into this saying he’s going to make the Democrats happy with respect to right to life, I think all pro-lifers should know that he’s preparing to sell you out.” Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds concurred: “It’s never a ‘terrible thing’ to protect innocent life. I’m proud of the fetal heartbeat bill the Iowa legislature passed and I signed in 2018 and again earlier this year.” Indeed, in April Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony list called Trump’s position a “morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate to hold.”
It’s gotten worse, not better. In a recent interview with The National Pulse—a nauseatingly sycophantic affair—Trump insinuated that perhaps the pro-life movement was merely a grift, stating that “we have these groups fighting this thing for so many years, decades…that’s a long time, everybody’s raising money all the time, maybe it’s some sort of a business, I don’t know what’s going on.” He followed that by again condemning “Ron DeSanctis” for passing the heartbeat bill. That last statement is correct—Trump doesn’t know what’s going on. He may have been personally repulsed by late-term abortion, but he clearly does not understand—and even explicitly opposes—the pro-life position that babies should be protected from the beginning of their lives.
One pro-life leader responded to this news by noting that “we cannot compromise on the goal of protecting each and every unborn life” but that still, “I and so many others continue to support him 100%.” Let’s be clear here: Donald Trump holds an explicitly pro-abortion position; he attacks genuinely pro-life laws that protect babies as a “terrible thing”; a short time ago, it would have been unfathomable for pro-lifers to support this man when there are many genuinely pro-life politicians currently available as an alternative. Right now, the choice facing primary voters is not Trump versus Clinton, or Trump versus Biden. It is Trump, condemning pro-life laws, versus politicians who have championed and passed those laws. If we choose Trump, it reveals something pretty ugly: that he’s changed us far more than we’ve changed him.