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Donald Trump does not care about the issue of abortion. That's why if he's elected, he will sign a national ban on the procedure the second he has a chance. If, heaven forbid, he gets back to the White House, it will be because the Christian right carried him. Banning abortion in all 50 states will be a way to pay them back, without having to give up anything he cares about.
This should be obvious, and yet, somehow, many in the press are being fooled by Trump's latest public posture about abortion, even though it's transparently dishonest. During his recent NBC News interview with Kristen Welker, Trump tried to strike a "moderate" pose on abortion. Referring to what the press misleadingly calls a "six-week" ban (it's really a two-week ban) on abortion in Florida, Trump said it was "a terrible mistake" for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign the draconian legislation.
"You will win on this issue when you come up with the right number of weeks," Trump asserted about a topic that has dogged the Republican Party at the ballot box since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Trump then went on to talk about this medical procedure like he was negotiating alimony for his next ex-wife.
"We're going to agree to a number of weeks or months or however you want to define it," he said, boldly claiming, "Both sides will come together. And for the first time in 52 years, you'll have an issue that we can put behind us."
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The pomposity of that statement should have been a reminder that Trump should be assumed to be lying about his abortion position, just as he lies about most things. And yet, much of the press took his statements at face value, even going so far as to report that he had angered anti-choice activists, which of course, only helps bolster Trump's false claims of moderation.
Never-Trump Republican Matt Lewis swallowed Trump's bait whole in a Daily Beast response that assumes Trump's "true" position is pro-choice. "[A]t some point, Trump's presidency might even be a net-negative for pro-lifers," Lewis wrote, arguing anti-choice voters "will have no one to blame but themselves" for believing Trump will back their cause. But Lewis is wish-casting here. It's a fantasy to think that all of these anti-abortion Republicans will wake one day, rueful that they sold out their "family values" to back a guy who wouldn't even ban abortion for them. However, the evangelical voters who appear ready to hand Trump the GOP nomination soon are making a very safe bet. They know that Trump is just lying to Welker and that he will sign a national abortion ban if he wins — likely within a few weeks of being inaugurated.
Evangelical voters know Trump doesn't care about abortion and has likely caused a few himself. But that's why they're right to believe he'll sign any ban put in front of him, no matter how draconian. Trump takes a wholly transactional view of politics, and his only concern is amassing power for himself. Certainly, he doesn't care how many women die or are maimed because of a ban. If he wins the White House, he'll want to keep the religious right on his side, and giving them a total or near-total ban on abortion is a way to do that that costs him nothing.
In a political environment where very little is predictable, there is one thing we can count on: If Trump is returned to the White House, a national abortion ban is a near-certainty. After all, if Trump wins, that means Republican turnout was high and Republicans are probably taking Congress, as well. Looking at state legislatures should kill any hope that Republicans will show constraint on this issue. Republicans keep banning abortion, despite strong public opposition. And when voters turn out to protect abortion rights in the states, Republican politicians retaliate by passing more laws to curtail voting rights.
For Trump, who opposes democracy, this is a win-win.
Anti-choice fervor in the GOP is driving anti-democracy fervor, which only makes it easier for Trump to sell his "why not end democracy altogether" plan. Giving evangelicals an abortion ban will just ensure their support for Trump's unsubtle yearning to be dictator-for-life. And if it makes Trump less popular with the larger public, well, that's why he wants to destroy democracy. The end goal is to put his power out of the reach of voters.
It's always wiser to look at what a politician does more than what he says, but with Trump, it's triply important. No other politician lies as much as Trump. No other politician has been less interested in keeping his promises. Trump himself doesn't even really bother to hide that he's lying. To one audience, he pretends to be "moderate" on abortion. To others, he brags that "I was able to terminate Roe vs. Wade." There is simply no relationship between what he says and what he does. What he says is worse than useless.
On the "what he does" front, the track record is clear: Trump gives all the power to fundamentalist Christians.
During his first term, Trump nominated judges from a list compiled by the far-right Federalist Society, which was initially founded for the purpose of banning abortion. Trump also let anti-choice radicals use White House powers to wage war on birth control access, filling health care offices with people who oppose any effort to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Trump's Department of Health passed rules making it harder for women to use their insurance to pay for birth control, and his administration repeatedly tried to cut funding for contraception services for low-income women. Trump officials spent the entire four years of his administration trying to destroy Planned Parenthood altogether.
This will all be much worse if Trump takes office again, starting with the near-inevitable national abortion ban he'll sign. He won't be worried about voter backlash. After all, he won't legally be able to run for a third term, so his focus will be on trying to find a way to install himself illegally in office on a permanent basis. To get that done, he will need the most fanatical forces in the GOP on his side. One way to do that is give them what they want, which is an abortion ban. From Trump's personal point of view, there's no downside and only upside to banning abortion. And the smartest bet of all is that Trump will always do what he thinks benefits him, no matter who gets hurt in the process.