Pro-Lifers' Fatal Attraction to Trump

Steve Chapman
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Posted: Oct 16, 2016 12:01 AM
Pro-Lifers' Fatal Attraction to Trump

In 2003, Donald Trump recalled that he married Marla Maples because she was expecting. She was thrilled when she learned she was pregnant. He was not.

"Excuse me. What happened?" he demanded, thinking she had been using birth control. "What are we going to do about this?" In the end, they chose to let the pregnancy take its course, producing their daughter, Tiffany.

During the Republican presidential primaries, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked whether, during his bachelor days, any of his girlfriends had gotten abortions. "Such an interesting question," he answered coyly. "So what's your next question?"

Last year, Trump had positive things to say about Planned Parenthood, the single largest provider of abortions in this country. He once acknowledged he may have given money to the organization. He's been on the cover of Playboy. He's talked lasciviously on radio about his sex life. And there is his alleged practice of forcing himself on women.

Trump could not be further removed from the values of most people in the anti-abortion movement, who tend to prize sexual restraint, traditional morality and reverence for the sanctity of life. But these days, distinguishing the pro-life movement from the Trump parade is devilishly hard.

The National Right to Life political action committee strongly favors him for president. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, has joined his campaign. Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life urged his allies to vote for Trump, even after he bragged of grabbing women by their genitals.

The pro-life forces are not in an enviable position. In this election, they have a choice between a Democrat who is a staunch advocate of abortion rights and a Republican who claims to share their views but whose life suggests he has nothing in common with them.

For conservatives, abortion has become the last resort in rationalizing a vote for Trump. If Hillary Clinton makes one or more Supreme Court appointments, they believe, the chance of overturning its abortion decisions will be gone, perhaps for good. Trump, by contrast, has promised to name conservative justices, defund Planned Parenthood and ban partial-birth abortion.

But the pro-lifers' allegiance to Trump requires a huge leap of faith. In the first place, why do they trust that he'd keep his word? In the 1990s, he described himself as "very pro-choice." This year, asked about abortion, he said, "At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way."

He is practically at war with House Speaker Paul Ryan and several other prominent Republicans. Who's to say that as president, he wouldn't reverse himself on abortion to make a deal with Democrats?

Nor is there much reason to think pro-lifers would prevail in the Supreme Court even if Trump were to nominate someone they like. The Roe v. Wade decision has been in place for nearly 44 years, and discarding such an important, long-standing precedent would be a radical step even for a conservative justice.

When the court preserved it in 1992, the key votes came from two justices nominated by Ronald Reagan and one chosen by George H.W. Bush. It's not hard to imagine Chief Justice John Roberts -- who voted to uphold Obamacare -- joining his liberal colleagues to preserve the status quo.

But the bigger reason pro-lifers shouldn't associate themselves with Trump is that the key to the ultimate success of their cause is not political or judicial but cultural.

The pro-life movement is one of the few voices in our society for elevating certain inviolable moral obligations above utilitarian needs. It believes the life of the unborn should take priority over the needs and preferences of the adults whose choices produced that life. It has said that even miraculous medical advances do not justify destroying innocent life.

The humane principles underlying those beliefs are not popular in a modern culture that places personal happiness and fulfillment above all else. They have a chance of eventually gaining broad acceptance only if they come from advocates whose lives demonstrate their deepest values.

A vote for Trump is a betrayal of those values. He embodies every toxic force in the culture that pro-lifers hope to overcome. He is, by his very nature, not

their friend.

By making excuses for him and his malignant character, they are trading their moral authority, credibility and integrity for uncertain, short-term considerations. With that, they are dooming everything they cherish.