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Nate Jackson / March 31, 2016

How to Really Damage the Pro-Life Movement

In 90 seconds, Trump undid 40 years of work.

For more than 40 years, the pro-life movement has diligently and compassionately advocated not only for unborn children but for women. It’s grossly unfair but is also reality that, whereas pro-abortion folks are almost never asked tough questions, any spokesman for the movement must be exceedingly careful with words. That is why making Donald Trump the standard bearer of the pro-life party risks undoing the work of an entire generation. In fact, in 90 seconds on Wednesday, he may have done just that.

Discussing abortion with MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Trump opined that if abortion were made illegal, “there has to be some kind of punishment.” “For the woman?” asked Matthews. “Yes,” Trump replied. Perhaps worse still, Trump mused, “You go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places, but we have to ban it.” That practically illustrates the Left’s scaremongering about “back alleys.” He is their caricature.

As The Wall Street Journal so aptly writes, “Not even the most fervent abortion opponent favors punishing a woman who has one. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, opponents would try to pass laws that punish abortion providers or the clinics where they take place. Mr. Trump’s remarks were thus a political gift to Democrats and the left, who would like nothing better than to stereotype abortion opponents as misogynists who want to put women in jail.”

To his credit, Trump realized that, once again, his mouth got ahead of his brain, and he issued a statement: “If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, 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. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”

His position changed in just a few hours. Indeed, it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that his follow-up statement accurately represents his views when he has continually expressed support for Planned Parenthood. Besides, the damage was already done. Does anyone think his original comments won’t find their way into a Hillary Clinton campaign ad that loops from now until November? Women comprise more than half the electorate, and they will surely consider Trump’s overall persona when deciding their votes. Three-quarters of them view him unfavorably.

Then again, he once boasted, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Will that change now?

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