In 2016, many pro-lifers doubted Donald Trump’s commitment to our cause. He appeared to be an unlikely, and presumably unreliable, champion for human life in the womb.
But the president has delivered for us. Not only have his policies, rhetoric, and judicial picks been resolutely pro-life, his populism has invigorated conservative interest in the economic, as well as social, preconditions for strong families. For most pro-lifers, Trump’s presidency is a cause for jubilation.
An Attempt to Make a Pro-Life Case for Biden
His pro-life work is, however, a problem for diehard Never Trump figures who claim to be pro-life. They now have to justify sitting out the coming election or, in some cases, supporting the most pro-abortion Democratic ticket in history. It is not easy for those who claim to be pro-life to explain why they are voting for candidates who support taxpayer-funded abortion on demand until birth.
Mona Charen has taken up the challenge, arguing that even if Trump’s policies on abortion are better than Biden’s, this need not be dispositive for pro-life voters. She says Trump is terrible in other ways, Biden isn’t that bad, and presidents don’t matter that much to the pro-life cause.
Charen derives her argument that presidents are inconsequential for the pro-life movement from a column by David French, which was picked up by others, including a National Review piece by Cameron Hilditch. I am weary of writing about Never Trump in general, and French in particular, but their outsized media influence necessitates that they not be ignored.
The heart of their “pro-life” case against Trump is that the annual number of abortions has been dropping for decades, regardless of who was in office. They conclude, therefore, that the pro-life movement can succeed despite lacking the political power of the presidency.
What Is Success?
This might be true if the pro-life movement is willing to redefine success to mean only ameliorating the toll of abortion, rather than also seeking its abolition. But the pro-life movement has done both, working to reduce abortions now while fighting for the ultimate abolition of elective abortion. French and Charen are surrendering on the second part of the struggle.
By their standard, it would be a success if, in another 20 or 30 years, there are “only” half a million abortions in the United States each year — all government-funded and protected by a fortress of rulings, regulations, laws, and judges. French, Charen, and other Never Trump pro-lifers might respond that they do not want surrender, just a strategic retreat to get rid of Trump, but they refuse to acknowledge the full cost of this retreat.
As president, Biden would restore federal funding for overseas abortion promotion, and he has promised taxpayer funding for abortion on demand in the United States. He would choose judges who will read a maximalist abortion regime into the Constitution. He and congressional Democrats would preempt state and local restrictions on abortion and harass pro-life organizations, including religious groups, as part of an escalating culture war.
A Biden presidency would reverse pro-life efforts toward abortion abolition. Charen nonetheless justifies her support for Biden on the grounds that, “Being pro-life is part of an overall approach to ethical questions. It’s wrong to take innocent life. But other things are immoral too. … Donald Trump is a daily, even hourly, assault on the very idea of morality.”
This hysteria is grotesque when set against the absolute immorality of abortion, which destroys the primordial basis of human life and relationships. Abortion responds to the dependence of a new human life with violence. It turns the interests of the mother, father, and child against each other. Instead of a self-giving love that nurtures life, abortion is selfishness culminating in death.
Nothing Trump has done in office comes close to the moral atrocity of nearly 1 million abortions per year, which Biden promises to encourage and have us all pay for. Championing and funding that violence is far more corrupting to society than any oafishness, immorality, or incompetence of which Charen might accuse Trump.
This corrupting effect is why the canard of making abortion unnecessary while keeping it legal is an illusion, and why decades of abortion on demand have not been the solution its advocates promised. Indeed, Americans are increasingly alone and childless, in large part because we have violently severed the elemental bonds of love that unite men and women with each other and their offspring.
Biden’s Disqualifying Position
This is the America of Biden and the Democratic Party’s radically pro-abortion regime. Biden has other personal and political sins, but his pro-abortion stance alone is disqualifying.
In contrast to Charen, French does not overtly support the former vice president. Instead, he has reiterated that neither candidate has earned his vote, while adumbrating more reasons presidents don’t have much effect on abortion.
French’s arguments are self-defeating, however. As he notes, most legislation against abortion is taking place in the states, rather than at the national level. These local efforts still undermine his case against Trump, for state-level regulations and restrictions on abortion are subject to review by the federal courts. Judges, and the president who picks them, are essential to state-led efforts against abortion.
Trump’s judges have changed the legal battlefield. Despite the perfidy of the George W. Bush-appointed John Roberts, many abortion restrictions are being upheld throughout the courts. Some restrictions are going unchallenged because Planned Parenthood and its allies are litigating scared. For example, they have been reluctant to challenge many state bans on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. One of Trump’s judges even upheld closing all abortion facilities during the initial stage of the pandemic.
The result is that pro-life laws are going into effect and abortion clinics are closing. These pro-life victories would not be happening if Hillary Clinton had been filling the courts with pro-abortion judges, as even French half-admits.
The Results of Trump Derangement
Thus, to maintain his anti-Trump position, French must minimize state-level efforts to reduce abortion, even though he had just praised them. He dismissively writes that even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the permissive abortion regimes many states would retain means that “for the nation as a whole, the abortion rate would likely shrink by only 12.8 percent.”
That would “only” save about 100,000 lives per year, and we might not even need to overturn Roe to achieve this; there is, for instance, only one embattled abortion clinic left in Missouri. Pushing abortion out of pro-life states would lower the overall abortion rate, despite the efforts of pro-abortion states to encourage “abortion tourism.”
Furthermore, states eliminating elective abortion would invigorate the pro-life cause. French is correct that most Americans don’t really want abortion. He does not draw the obvious conclusion, which is that a coalition of states showing that abortion is neither inevitable nor necessary would have great persuasive power for the cause of life. These state efforts would also prepare the way for the federal action that will be needed for national abolition.
The struggle to protect the unborn has been prolonged, our victories have been hard-won, and there is much still to do. But we have had victories, and there are more on the way, thanks to Republican legislatures, Trump judges, and the valiant work of grassroots pro-lifers.
Throwing that away by handing political power back to those who want federally funded abortion on demand would be a suicidal, self-inflicted wound. It would literally be a deadly setback to our goals of abortion reduction and eventual abolition. President Trump is an unlikely pro-life hero, but we should rejoice in unexpected blessings, not reject them.