Donald Trump will become the first president to speak in person to The March For Life in Washington today. And he will be doing it as someone who followed an amazing path on the abortion issue, one which elevated him to the presidency and illustrates the foolishness of politicians who tried to game this issue.
Trump spent most of his career as a limousine liberal on the issue of abortion. With some rare exceptions, his entire public history on the issue was pro-choice. His attitude largely seemed to disregard the matter, subsidiary to his more consistent interests in trade policy and the like. But since his election, it is impossible to say he has been anything less than the most successful pro-life president in the nearly half a century since Roe v. Wade.
For those pro-lifers who advocated in past decades for politicians who were less transactional and more sincere in their beliefs on abortion, it’s not like we can blame them. But in a way, it’s Trump’s totally transactional approach to the issue that has resulted in these successes. He understands the binary in a way other politicians do not.
Instead of trying to find the middle path as George W. Bush did on stem cells, instead of having any reluctance for defunding Planned Parenthood via the Reagan rule, Trump has viewed this as a binary process without any gray area. Either we fund abortions or we don’t. Either we name pro-life judges or we don’t. Either we call it like it is or we don’t. In each case, Trump’s tendencies toward shocking the polite conventions of politics has served pro-lifers well.
I had occasion to read a piece recently from 23 years ago, by Bill Kristol and David Brooks, writing in the Wall Street Journal about their dreams for a more big-chested national conservatism. Their single line about abortion speaks to how pro-lifers were treated by the Republican Party for more than two decades: “For example, in lieu of a consensus to outlaw abortion, it might mean a campaign to reduce the number of abortions year by year, via adoption and in other ways.” That sounds nice. Maybe a good item for the President Hillary Clinton agenda.
This is insufficient because it does little more than lip-service for what is, second only to guns, the most powerful motivating single issue for both right and left. It wasn’t “safe legal and rare” that puts people in the streets. We have experienced almost a decade of decline in the number of abortions, naturally, thanks to the ubiquity of birth control, the rise of the morning after pill, and the decline in teen sex. Yet the political question remains unresolved, short-circuited by the philosophically untenable anti-democratic nature of Roe, and activated by the tribalism of the left which accepts no departure from their radical expectations.
An abortion law regime that did represent the country would allow for legal bans after the first trimester as well as requirements for informing parents, and a variety of other limitations. This is the reality in most of Europe – in fact, their restrictions start even earlier. But the holy nature of Roe reduces this argument to the margins. This has to end. It is the most fundamental question for us, whether the preborn lives that take root here are unique persons, with the right to draw breath and live, or whether they are non-persons, “lives unworthy of life”, “human weeds” as Margaret Sanger called them, whose destruction is a public good.
There is no in-between on this. There is no triangulation on the matter. We the people must be for a regime that will protect unborn children under law, or we are for this regime that allows their virtually unlimited destruction. Either we protect, or we kill. There is no third way.