Salvo 05.20.2024 5 minutes

Trump’s Political Miscalculation on Abortion


Pro-aborts will never forgive him for helping overturn Roe.

Nominating the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade is undoubtedly one of Donald Trump’s most significant presidential accomplishments. With typical bravado, Trump made sure everyone knew he was responsible, bragging on Truth Social, “After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone.” He added that “without me there would be no [abortion bans at] 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks.”

But since Dobbs, Republican candidates have sensed that the general public is far less pro-life than they had thought. Referendums in states such as Michigan, Ohio, and California codified a “right” to abortion. Senate hopeful Blake Masters in Arizona and House candidate Amanda Adkins in Kansas shied away from their once-staunch positions against abortion.

Even Trump himself has been emphasizing on the campaign trail that he believes in exceptions for the life of the mother, rape, and incest, telling supporters that the issue should be ultimately left to the states. Trump’s advisors are hoping that voters will see a difference between him and the activist pro-life Right he has championed.

In light of the seemingly unpopularity of pro-life legislation, voters in Midwest swing states will be inundated with advertisements highlighting Trump’s role in reversing Roe v. Wade from now until November. The Super PAC American Bridge 21st Century is buying up $25 million in ads which quote Trump saying he is “proudly the person responsible” for Roe’s demise. The accusation that Trump will be responsible for fatal ectopic pregnancies and pregnant underage rape victims is a familiar refrain for Democrats on the 2024 campaign trail. 

The case for avoiding discussions of banning abortion, restricting IVF, or other pro-life policies is admittedly strong. The issue doesn’t poll well with voters and is eclipsed by economic issues which Republicans could use to court them. Besides, even the most anti-abortion Christians must admit that sabotaging Trump’s campaign for a righteous cause would mean four more years of a militantly pro-abortion Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. In this view, Trump shouldn’t run on overturning Roe because even the Republican base doesn’t look like the donor list for the March for Life. 

But in reality, Trump is nuancing his position on an unpopular and touchy topic in a way that establishment Republicans have been doing for decades to avoid the Left’s name-calling.

Republicans are pro-immigration reform but take pains to explain that they welcome and encourage legal immigration because, after all, the U.S. is a “nation of immigrants.” Though they are appalled by the flagrant sexuality forwarded by the alphabet mafia in public spaces, they also go to great lengths to assure voters they aren’t like those rabid Bible-thumpers who want to regulate what people do in their bedrooms. No matter. For the Left and their media lackeys, the Republican Party is still xenophobic, homophobic, and racist.

After the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are entitled to protection under state law, effectively putting Alabama’s in vitro fertilization industry in limbo, Trump saw his opportunity to appear reasonable on reproductive politics. “We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder!” Trump wrote on Truth Social against the decision. He told supporters in South Carolina that he’s in favor of “fertility treatments like IVF.” In this case, Trump hopes to be seen as reasonably pro-life, apparently forgetting that he melted the pro-abortion Left’s judicial golden calf in Roe.  

Trump of all people should know that it doesn’t matter how nuanced and “reasonable” your opinions are, or appear to be. For example, Speaker Mike Johnson is the type of conservative who backs Ukraine aid when our own border is all but nonexistent. Yet during his confirmation hearing he was deemed an evil Christian nationalist and a porn-brained misogynist. Johnson is in truth a well-meaning political normie who has an outspoken faith. Yet the media that the vast majority of America consumes sees no distinction. If Johnson ever decides to campaign for higher office, no Democratic opponent will thank him for sticking it to the nationalists on foreign policy.

On abortion the Left is no less radical. You could be an 80-year-old church lady folding onesies at a pregnancy care center and still get fire-bombed. There’s no nuance for the other side, and Trump should stop pretending there is. 

Trump need not make abortion a focal point of his campaign to avoid the mistakes of the GOP establishment he has so rightly decried since running for president in 2015. In most cases, he doesn’t need to mention abortion, and when he is directly asked about various state-level bans he could deflect quite easily. Trump is a master with the media, particularly in turning their own political “gotchas” against them. Indeed, the Left is radical on abortion to the point of taxpayer-funded infanticide, a stance that is no more popular than the most ardently pro-life right-winger’s. Any public statement he makes on abortion should harp on this fact. Trump should then keep his focus on issues such as the border and the economy that are extremely popular with his base, and even some Democrats. 

No matter how hard his campaign tries, there is no escaping the fact that Trump was instrumental in overturning Roe v. Wade. He’s taken a well-deserved victory lap for the Dobbs decision, sound bites that Kamala HarrisHillary Clinton, and the Lincoln Project will play until election day. Trump will never fully escape this, but he can distract from it. And the way to do that is not to play nice with the political party that fully supports murdering babies.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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