Don’t Be Fooled By Trump’s Failure to Endorse a Nationwide Abortion Ban

Former President Donald Trump announced on Truth Social that he favors state control over abortion law and policy and declined to endorse a nationwide ban. He also claimed that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was favored by “all legal scholars” on “both sides.” Abortion is “where everybody wanted it, from a legal standpoint,” according to Trump.

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All of this is patently false, of course. Decades of legal scholarship and advocacy support the federal constitutional right to abortion that Dobbs eliminated. Some scholars who support legal abortion as a matter of policy have criticized the result the Court reached in Roe, but they are in the minority. Others have critiqued the reasoning of Roe v. Wade. Some, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, prefer the equality rationale of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), where the Court noted the central importance of reproductive freedom to women’s ability to participate fully and equally in the social, political, and economic life of the nation. But the notion that all or most legal scholars wanted the Court to obliterate the right to choose abortion is ludicrous.

No one should be fooled by Trump’s failure to endorse any of the proposed nationwide abortion bans, a move designed to appear “moderate” and lull voters into a false sense of complacency. Make no mistake: a second Trump administration will empower an anti-abortion movement determined to make abortion illegal everywhere. Even if Republicans do not take over Congress, there are plans in place to make medication abortion unavailable and to resurrect the 1873 Comstock Act, an archaic anti-vice law, to ban abortion nationwide. Proponents of fetal personhood, which defines an embryo as a legal person from the moment of fertilization, will be closer to realizing their goal, threatening not only abortion and miscarriage care but also IVF and common forms of contraception. Trump promotes the grotesque lie that Democrats want to “execute babies” to distract from his own party’s extremism.

Trump peddles these false and misleading claims because he understands that the truth about abortion endangers his candidacy and Republicans generally. Far from ending the controversy, returning abortion to the states already has led to outcomes wildly out of step with public opinion. Doctors and hospitals routinely deny patients basic medical care, including miscarriage treatment, because they are not close enough to death to have their rights outweigh those of an embryo or fetus. State laws with no or ineffective exceptions force children, survivors of rape and incest, and people with nonviable fetuses to carry pregnancies regardless of the consequences to their health and future fertility. Maternal health deserts multiply because doctors fear criminal and civil liability. Abortion bans exacerbate a maternal and infant mortality crisis that makes pregnancy a mortal danger to American women—especially Black women, who are almost three times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.

Read More: How Louisiana Has Become a Microcosm of the Abortion Access Fight

Even people with qualms about abortion in theory don’t favor these horrific results in fact. Recent polling from Gallup and Axios respectively reveals supermajority popular opposition to total and near-total bans on abortion, and majority support, even among Republicans, for keeping the government out of reproductive health care decisions altogether. Every ballot initiative since Dobbs has been resolved in favor of abortion rights and access. In fact, abortion motivates Americans to turn out and vote for candidates who support reproductive freedom.

Perhaps the most pernicious of Trump’s lies is that returning abortion to the states is a victory for democracy. Depriving people of the right to make the most basic decisions about their bodies and lives is deeply undemocratic and a hallmark of authoritarian regimes worldwide. Extreme abortion bans and fetal personhood laws pass despite popular opposition because of unchecked partisan gerrymandering that gives Republicans supermajorities. Even the most conservative lawmakers live in fear of a primary challenge from the right if they support any exceptions, however minor and ineffective, to total abortion bans. Trump says abortion law after Dobbs is “all about the will of the people.” But in fact, Republicans are scrambling to take decisions about abortion out of the people’s hands by preventing referenda from reaching the ballot, protecting state courts that defy public opinion from accountability for their decisions, and disenfranchising voters.

The GOP has long used abortion to secure the support of voters to promote a much broader right-wing agenda. Trump, as promised, packed the federal judiciary with jurists who would destroy the government’s ability to regulate corporations, combat climate change and political corruption, enact sensible gun-safety laws, provide for affordable health care, expand opportunities for women and people of color, fight discrimination, protect the rights of workers and immigrants, ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes, and so on.

The problem is that a majority of Americans actually support each of the policies the Right is determined to undo. To remain in power, Republicans must undermine democratic institutions and practices. Partisan and racial gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the evisceration of campaign finance regulation and voting rights laws are longstanding strategies; more recently, election denialism, insurrection, political violence, and white supremacist resurgence—all fomented by Trump—place democracy and the rule of law in mortal danger. All of this is at stake in Trump’s ultimate lie: his claim to be a champion of democracy rather than the architect of its demise.

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