What Trump’s abortion flip-flops reveal

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun6,2024

In 2016, the BBC interviewed a Trump supporter who predicted, “He’s going to tell people what he’s going to do and he’s going to do it … He’s not a politician.” Eight years later, despite Trump’s lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 election, those views persist. A majority of Republicans think Trump is honest, cares for them, stands for them on important issues and is a “man of faith.” 71 percent of Republicans who intend to vote for him believe he tells the truth, a higher percentage than the trust they have for family members and friends.

Trump’s abortion flip-flops, however, demonstrate that he is willing to say and do just about anything to get elected.

In 1999, when he was a Democrat, Trump declared that although he personally hated abortion, “I am strongly pro-choice.” Asked whether he would ban “partial-birth abortions” (rarely used procedures, performed late in pregnancies when a woman’s life is in danger or there’s an extreme fetal abnormality), Trump replied, “I am pro-choice in every respect, as far as it goes.” He also maintained he wanted abortion “removed from politics. I believe it is a personal decision that should be left to the women and their doctors.”

A year later, in his book “The America We Deserve,” Trump asserted, “I support a woman’s right to choose, but I am uncomfortable with the procedures.”

In 2011, as he contemplated a run for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump told attendees of CPAC that he was pro-life. His position had “evolved,” he subsequently explained, when friends of his decided not to abort a pregnancy and the child turned out to be “a total superstar.”

In 2015, Trump said he would permit abortion if the life of the mother was in danger, but not if she had “a cold.”

In March 2016, during the GOP primaries, Chris Matthews asked Trump if he supported criminal penalties for women who had abortions. “I would say it’s a serious problem,” Trump replied, “and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?” But “there has to be some form of punishment for the woman.” When Matthews pressed him on what the punishment should be, Trump acknowledged he took positions “on everything else,” but said, “That I don’t know.”

A few hours later, he walked it back. The doctor, not the woman, he maintained, should be legally responsible: “The woman is a victim in the case, as is the life in the womb.”

In October 2016, during a debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump denounced partial-term abortions: “you can rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month or the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”

As president, Trump signed a memorandum blocking federal government funding for organizations providing abortion services, including counseling.

Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022, Trump bragged that his appointments justified his “proud” claim of responsibility for overturning Roe v. Wade. He has also falsely asserted that “all legal scholars, both sides, wanted and in fact demanded” the end of Roe, and that Democrats want “babies executed after birth.”

Since then, however, the political landscape has changed. More than 60 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. An even larger percentage favor federal legislation granting women a right to abortion. Pro-choice candidates and referendums were successful in red and blue states at the polls.

And so Trump no longer treats protecting unborn babies as a moral imperative. “It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the midterms,” he insisted. “It was the abortion issue, poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly resisted exceptions.” And Florida’s six-week ban “is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” Trump didn’t know what Gov. Ron DeSantis, then his opponent for the GOP nomination, “really believes because you never know with a politician.”

That said, he emphasized that “we have to win elections,” refused to specify a time frame for abortion restrictions, but promised he’d “sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something, and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”

A couple of months ago, Trump privately expressed support for a nationwide abortion ban at 16 weeks. As one critic put it, the former president made abortion sound like a real estate transaction, telling associates he liked 16 because it was an even number, “it’s four months.” He didn’t mention that nearly 94 percent of abortions take place before pregnancies reach 13 weeks.

In March, Trump announced “the number of weeks now, people are agreeing on is 15, and I’m thinking in terms of that and it’ll come out to something that’s very reasonable.”

This month, Trump declared that he would veto any federal ban on abortion. Any and all restrictions should be left to the states: “Many states will be different, many will have a different number of weeks, or some will be more conservative than others and that’s what they will be.” He predicted that the near-total Arizona ban, passed in 1864, “would be straightened out” and Florida’s six-week ban “was probably, maybe going to change.”

Trump praised state autonomy on abortions as “a perfect system” — even if, he implied, some states allowed no exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother and mandated criminal penalties for women and abortion providers. Deeply disappointed for different reasons, anti-abortion activists reminded the former president that “state lines should never mean the beginning or end of human rights.”

Trump’s self-serving, politically expedient abortion flip-flops provide an invitation to learn from the proverb “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Emeritus Professor of American History at Cornell University.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “What Trump’s abortion flip-flops reveal”
  1. Trump’s abortion flip-flops, however, demonstrate that he is willing to say and do just about anything to get elected.

  2. Do Trump’s abortion flip-flops reflect a lack of consistent principles in his political stance?

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