Trump's abortion gaffe

The abortion pill

The abortion pill

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By allowing as how women who procure abortions in a country that bans them ought to receive some punishment, Donald Trump proved once again the validity of Michael Kinsley's definition of a gaffe: "when a politician tells the truth -- some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say."

The obvious truth in this case has to do with the pro-life position that abortion is murder. For if that's the case, how can a woman who voluntarily obtains one not incur some criminal liability?

Let us note at this point that, having touched the third rail of Republican politics (even unto upsetting Ann Coulter), Donald the Tough jumped back like a debutante who's seen a mouse. No no, he said, serving up the pro-life boilerplate, if abortion is banned, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

So who's legally responsible when a woman self-aborts by taking one of those abortion pills that the FDA just made it easier to obtain? Or should we also absolve of legal responsibility the woman who kills her baby after a live birth?

The reason why Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, et al. were so distressed by Trump's remark is that they know that it would be death for the pro-life movement if they advocated even the slightest punishment for a woman who chooses, for whatever reason, to terminate her pregnancy -- or, as they would have it, to murder the unborn person in her womb.

If you think abortion is murder, it's a lie to pretend that every woman who gets one is an innocent victim. In his naiveté, Donald Trump failed to pretend. He told the truth.


  1. At first I thought the headline was “Trump’s Abortion Gift.’ That’s exactly what his comments are, though. By saying what he did, he reveals the moral bankruptcy of the antiabortion movement and the politicians allied with it. It’s all about controlling women and exercising power over them and the hyperbolic expression “abortion is murder!” is revealed to be the lie it always was.

  2. I’m thinking the gaffe here is that Trump incorrectly thought he could out-flank Cruz on the right ahead of Wisconsin, not that Trump inadvertently spoke his truth.

    My gut tells me he’s far from a hardliner on abortion and that he really doesn’t believe that women who abort should be legally punished. I would not be surprised if it emerged there’s one or more abortions on Trump’s own history.

  3. The dance is a jig of jitters and Trump dances just like us all.
    The reason is that this whole matter of abortion is above every humans pay grade. And we all look like amateurs out on the floor pretending to be confident at every misstep.

    Humans are allowed to act the part of God but fail miserably at it.
    Those of us who admit this are less willing to be so cocky and political with another persons life–whether in the womb or without–whether mother–father–or doctor.

    For any and all of us–best to give the benefit of doubt to the unborn as to whether or not they are a person with desire and right to live.

    For any and all of us, the law already assigns such a human status to the unborn–We go to prison if we harm or kill him, her, it. The mother and doctor are the only ones allowed to abort/murder without human penalty at this time. Odd this is.

    No matter how many times Mr. Trump stabs himself, there seems to be no shortage of giddy onlookers who promise loyalty.

  4. “The obvious truth in this case has to do with the pro-life position that abortion is murder. For if that’s the case, how can a woman who voluntarily obtains one not incur some criminal liability?”

    The obvious truth in this case has to do with the reality that the sky is blue, not green. Abortion is legal. What’s the benefit of sharing ideas about which kind of punishment is “best”?

    Pointlessly picking punishments: Is It Angst, or Is It Schadenfreude?

  5. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that abortion is killing. I don’t accept that, but let’s start there. There are situations where killing is permitted. In others, it can even be praiseworthy. I’m in the military, so I’ve been trained for the “praiseworthy” type of killing. The act of killing a human is not always wrong, so abortion itself cannot be considered always wrong. Some examples I can think of are: a mother with curable cancer, ectopic pregnancy, when the woman is still a young girl and giving birth will harm her permanently (11-year-old Brazilian girl, for instance). I’d argue rape, incest, child abuse as well.

    60% of American abortions are women who have other kids and can’t afford the time, medical care, job loss, or other issues. To stop 60% of abortions, accomplish maternity leave, job security, living wage, free healthcare to all pregnant women, affordable childcare, after school programs. If you actually want to stop abortion, solve the reasons…

  6. The way I see it is that when its in a womb, its only the concern of the woman whose womb it is. You may not like the decisions she makes, but its not your womb and will not be your business. It is the height of self-righteousness, indifference, dishonesty, arrogance and narcissism to believe that claiming some kind of moral high ground over women who are pregnant entitles one to make decisions for them.

    The whole anti-abortion POV is simply whining over the fact that women are making decisions without asking for your input. It is mere self-importance and delusion that makes you think such input was ever necessary. You may think God forbids such things, but that is not the concern of anyone else.

  7. This baby we speak of in the womb has its own blood type–blood supply–personality–will to live. A distinct and separate creation from the mother.

    Amazingly like you and me when we were in gestation.

    Now that you and I are out of the womb, and were absent the rights to live and not be killed, I imagine we would scream at anyone who would listen.

    I imagine if anyone wanted to end our life for us, for any reason, we might want someone to advocate for us and offer protection.

    It is quite easy for me to speak up and speak out for legislation that gives me freedom to live, but a fetus has no such voice without a moral community assigning and protecting its right to live.

    The sorrow is that any woman must face this decision for any reason.
    I know and have grieved with many who live in agonizing sorrow and wish that someone would have stopped them. You are so right. None of us (especially men) can speak for these women unless it is a prayer.

  8. Do you support mandatory kidney donation? If you are a match to someone who needs your kidney, they will die without it, should you be legally required to donate it, no choice?

  9. The pro-life position is that abortion is murder. If that position were to become law, how could you charge the doctor without charging the woman? The doctor would be the hitman, and the woman would be the one who hired the hitman.

    You are right on the mark Prof. Silk. “Donald Trump failed to pretend. He told the truth.” To be logically consistent both would have to be charged with a crime.

  10. Until it can survive outside its mother, it has no autonomous existence which can be separated from her rights. Calling it a baby or a person doesn’t change that.

    Outside a womb we can have people protect our interests without attacking the rights and privacy of others. Your failure to make the distinction makes your POV dishonest.

    As for speaking on behalf of a fetus against its mother, that is just self righteous narcissism talking. The fanciful notion that your claim to moral superiority grants you the right to interject yourself into personal decisions of others. The patronizing tone of someone who thinks they know better about women than they do themselves.

    It really is more of a character flaw on your part than a reasonable position.

  11. What about the man who impregnates a 10 y/o? Doesn’t he have some major responsibility?

  12. Many women live in happy gratitude that no stranger stopped them from making their own medical decisions. Many women. Many, many, many women had a abortion and went on to live positive and fulfilling, healthy lives.

    The “live in agonizing sorrow and wish that someone would have stopped them.”, thing is a handy, anti-women, worthless generalization. Yes, some women have regretted aborting a fetus, especially after being brow beaten and demonized by hateful, anti-choice types.

  13. “If you actually want to stop abortion, solve the reasons…”

    Exactly. But many of the anti-choices are also anti-comprehensive sex ed and -birth control. (Head slap to forehead.) That sounds much more like “control women, keep them in their place, don’t trouble their pretty little heads, etc.”

  14. The child is of course innocent. The man would be charged on several counts. If abortion were illegal, any man who aided and abetted, for example, transporting a woman (of age) to place that provides illegal abortions would also would be prosecuted. A man involved in consensual sex resulting in pregnancy, without being involved (including proving money) in setting up a abortion would have no responsibility for that abortion.

  15. That’s based on faulty logic; we don’t know “who” aborted fetii would have grown up to be; you wouldn’t have been you if your Dad had taken a phone call before sex with your mom and another sperm would’ve impregnated the ovum. No one should make any effort to “stop” a woman to have an abortion; it is none of their business.

  16. And against social safety nets, progressive taxation, education funding, public education in general…

    They are against all the things society could do that would reduce the number of abortions. But they are against abortions.

    Put up or shut up. Put your money where your mouth is. Various phrases capture their cognitive dissonance.

  17. There is invincible ignorance in regards to the act of abortion, and no doubt, there are those who want to promote this invincible ignorance, so that Roe v. Wade will not be overturned due to its procedural and substantive due process error.

    With ultrasound, it has become possible to see the face of abortion, and as more and more persons become aware of the essence of the son or daughter residing in their mother’s womb, hopefully, the result will be a Nation who respects the inherent Dignity of human life, and does not serve to destroy our sons and daughters.

  18. Hi Debbo,

    “some” and “many”, and “many, many, many”.

    Suffice it to say that ALL of theses women were traumatized and made decisions that were painful at best. Loss of life is rarely a benign experience.

    Respectfully, you and I live in different worlds, and I am the first to say how grateful I am that the women you refer to are doing well.
    I take no pleasure in referencing the sorrow of which I speak, and I hope the happy experiences of your friends rule the day.

    And you are correct. Within the “Pro-Life” movement there are many people who are ruled by anger. They do brow-beat and demonize. This is unfortunate. Once again, the world I live in is dominated by those who are quite the opposite.

    The abortion issue is a powder keg and sometimes people on both sides of the debate have found matches and are too immature to be playing with them.

    No matter our belief, we can all be a true support for women who have unwanted pregnancies, no matter how they happened.

  19. Nancy,

    I join you in this noble cause. We must never stop advocating for the child and the mother. (and father)

    We must become a nation that strengthens the family at every front and our government must find its way back to do more than talk about the plight of the poor and middle class.

    Mikehorn said, 60% of American abortions are women who have other kids and can’t afford the time, medical care, job loss, or other issues. To stop 60% of abortions, accomplish maternity leave, job security, living wage, free healthcare to all pregnant women, affordable childcare, after school programs. If you actually want to stop abortion, solve the reasons…

    I’m not sure about his statistics, and I do not support his every point of solution, but his prevention logic is spot on.

    No matter the next president, we must address these matters as a nation.

  20. That is exactly the mind of patronizing, arrogant attitude I was referring to.

    Naturally you know exactly what women are feeling on the subject. So much so that you believe to be entitled to act on their behalf. Even when nobody bothered to ask you, nor is it your business.

    If you had concern for women, you would not intrude upon their affairs and not look for government to interject itself in such things.

  21. What a woman does with her own body and her most private of decisions is none of our business.

    It might be different if we offered to pay for her limited work duty & maternal leave, medical costs & transportation, parental costs (including surrogate parenting wages if she wasn’t ready, willing, or able to be a parent), from birth thru the child’s 20th year (including food, clothing, medical care, school & college, room & board, car & fuel, maintenance, insurance, and all other childcare costs), plus pain, suffering, & inconvenience fees, compensation for loss of opportunities during all those years, and whatever further payments she might demand for agreeing to do all this, including catering to our beliefs instead of following her own, just so we’d feel better about what she did with her own life. Yes, it might be different then. But only if she accepted our offer.

    And that would be every bit as much her own choice as is abortion.

  22. Thank you. I get frustrated when anti-abortion people don’t acknowledge that abortions happen because good people are really struggling. If anti-abortion folks as part of their efforts tried to elect people that would fix the underlying problems, that would give actual reductions in abortions. If saving a life is important, then do it. Solve the actual reasons.

    The stats are difficult to parse because the reasons are complex, and women often give multiple reasons. My understanding of the numbers is based on the Guttmacher survey.

    60% are already mothers, and know what another baby means economically and physically.
    60% or more, (as high as 80% depending on what answers you include) give economic reasons, like wage and medical care and job loss do we include unreliable male partner here or not?

    The two don’t completely overlap. Some existing mothers say they are too old or they are done having children, not economic answers IMO.

  23. The underlying problem is the denial that every human person, from the moment they are created and brought into being, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as a son or daughter, has the inherent Right to Life, to Liberty, and to The Pursuit of Happiness, the purpose of which is what God, not Caesar, intended.

    To deny the essence of the human person, created in The Image and Likeness of God, is to render onto Caesar what belongs to God thus denying both the spirit of the law of our Constitution, and The Spirit of The Law of God.

  24. In America we are purposely not bound by any notion of God, so in a legal sense your argument is irrelevant. Anyone not your faith has the right to live outside your theology. Make a secular argument or don’t bother.

    What we do have is a notion of individual rights. In that case any pregnant woman has rights. If we ignore theology and assume for argument that the fetus also has rights, you are still left with a case of competing rights. Does the fetus have a right to use the woman’s uterus and body? I’m not suggesting an answer, just framing the legal question.

    As a parallel, what about a child with failed kidneys? The child will surely die without donated organs. If we find a match, is that matched person legally required to donate a kidney because that child needs one? The adult will live with one, and so will the child, but the child will die if the match says no.

  25. No, Glenn Harrell, it is simply Not True that women who’ve had abortions feel bad about it in any way. You are basing your opinion on your belief that aborting a fetus is a bad thing. That is your opinion, and you are welcome to it.

    I said this before and I’ll say it again because it is a fact:

    Many women live in happy gratitude that no stranger stopped them from making their own medical decisions. Many women. Many, many, many women had a abortion and went on to live positive and fulfilling, healthy lives.

  26. The impregnator is just as responsible for any pregnancy he creates as the woman is. He is as responsible for his sperm as a woman is responsible for her eggs. If he does not wish to create a pregnancy, he is responsible for not impregnating. He can use a condom, a chemical product, have a vasectomy or even Not Have Sexual Intercourse. Impregnators really serious about not creating pregnancies ought to press drug companies to create a male contraceptive pill. If there was a decent market for it, the companies do it. It’s the impregnators responsibility to create such a market.

    Impregnators are equally responsible for any pregnancy they create.

    Women are not responsible for male fertility and sexual behavior. Men over the age of 18 are grown ups, right?

  27. It’s weird that there’s still no such thing as a male contraceptive pill.

    Regarding men being grown-ups, I have a theory that my gender has somehow evolved(?) the ability to exchange maturity for power at will.
    I believe it works both ways, but empirical evidence of this is lacking.

  28. Your clever reply made me smile. Thank you.

  29. Mikehorn, do you deny that one of the responsibilities of motherhood is to nourish and provide shelter for their children? Are you suggesting that if a mother does not desire to nourish and shelter their child from harm, that somehow her desire not to nourish and shelter her child from harm, supersedes the Right to Life of her son or daughter?

  30. Yoh, it is a biological fact, not an opinion, that you have been you from the moment of your conception, and I have been me from the moment of mine. There is nothing self righteous about recognizing a self-evident truth, that every son or daughter of a human person can only be a human person. Our Constitution serves to protect our inherent Right to Life from the moment we were created, which is not the same moment we came forth from our mother’s womb.

  31. It is also a biological fact that I exist because my mother’s will was for me to exist. That if she had not wanted to keep her pregnancy, it was her choice to do so. So where does the mother fit in your rhetoric? She doesn’t. You ignore or minimize the most important person to the situation. That is some world class dishonest and arrogant thinking.

    A fetus has no rights greater than its mother. You can’t give a fetus rights without attacking it’s mother. You can’t negate the mothers rights through shaming tactics and in your case ignoring their existence. The laws grant rights to born people.

    There is nothing but self righteousness and arrogance in the view that you can interject yourself into decisions concerning pregnancy. That your opinion and wishes have to be taken into consideration in such matters.

    For want of a better phrase, it’s none of your business.

  32. Nancy, you are misreading what I said. I argue that, even if we assume both woman and blastocyst have equal rights, then you still must deal with the rights of the mother. Duties are rarely illuminated, but the idea of maternal duty is an interesting one. A mother might cancel her duty at any time, to include giving up the baby at birth for adoption, or to be raised by grandparents, or similar. If we have individual rights, the mother might choose different paths.

    Note that 60% of abortions are to women who are already mothers to other children. Those women are definitely considering child rights – those of her older children. They might also consider their own health as it affects current or future children. Will she be able to feed all 4 kids, or just 3? Is she so ill now that a pregnancy would kill either her or the child (cancer cases). Is she so young that a child now would destroy her ability to have future children (11 year old rape/incest victim).

    It’s very complex.

  33. Nancy, our rights are not simple or constant. We take away voting & gun rights from felons. We kill people for murder, or wartime cowardice, treason, or desertion in the face of the enemy (No enemy they might not be capital offenses).

    A child of 5 cannot stay home alone, drive, drink, or vote. A child of 16 can drive and stay alone. 18 gets the vote. 21 drink. We change what rights people have for different reasons. The unique genetics of a fertilized egg does not give a right to life. My kids are IVF. Some fertilized eggs never became kids – too weak on division. Most fertilized eggs inside women are similarly defective and flush during a period, or a very early miscarriage. My wife had at least 5 early miscarriages (2-5 weeks). Those eggs simply were never going to be people, despite unique genetics. In some twins, genetics are identical. With tech, maybe my bone marrow can become my twin. Should we save adult stem cells because they could be unique people?

  34. The fact that our life began as a beloved son or daughter, at the moment we were created and brought into being at our conception, is not complex. There are those who may be vincibly ignorant of this fact, and no doubt, there are those who simply ignore this fact confirmed by Biology.

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