Trump wants to make a deal on abortion: Will pro-lifers stick with him in 2024?

Donald Trump dropped a bomb or two in his interview with Kristen Welker on her first day moderating Meet the Press.

The interview totally consistent with the genre of journalists pretending to be reporters while slyly (or not) inserting their own biases into the conversation. Trump, though, is more than capable of getting his message through simply because he bulls through whatever obstacle is in his way. It is his superpower and his kryptonite, depending on the day.

NBC spent enormous efforts “fact-checking” Trump during and after the interview, about as well as anybody in the media “fact checks” things these days–repeating DNC talking points for the most part. By now “fact-check” in mediaspeak just means handing out the talking points for the people who are desperate to reinforce their Trump hatred.

Clips of the interview are floating around, and people are latching on to various moments for their own purposes. Trump’s “What is a Woman” moment has gotten a lot of attention, although to me it isn’t the “Gotcha” that a lot of people hope it is. His answer was typically Trumpian when he doesn’t want to answer, meaning people will read into it what the want to hear.

The clip that got the most attention was the exchange on abortion, which was also typical of Trump. The “Let’s make a deal” version of Trump.

It is difficult to argue that Trump’s presidency wasn’t good for pro-lifers–he managed to get 3 great justices onto the Supreme Court and in consequence Roe v. Wade was overturned. This had been a dream of conservatives for decades, and it would be churlish in the extreme not to give Trump credit for doing something Republicans have promised to do for decades and failed.

Abortion politics since the overturning of Roe have been pretty awful for Republicans. Overturning Roe was only step 1 in the battle to beat back the abortion-industrial complex, and many Americans were frightened by the prospect of radical shifts in policy–and at least some of that is due to terrible messaging on the part of conservatives, and part due to the successful gaslighting of Democrats and the MSM on the issue.

Trump, who likely never was personally pro-life, has pulled back on his support for the cause. As you can see in the interview he dropped a very Trumpish “let’s make a deal” proposal–getting everybody sitting around the table and hammering out a compromise. Everybody would be happy!

My reaction to this has gone through several iterations. First of all, as with ending the Ukraine war on Day 1, it is pure fantasy. Trump has always had more than a bit of PT Barnum in his soul, so there is nothing unsurprising about that, but on both these issues, the claim is so implausible that I don’t see how anybody takes what he says seriously here. You don’t end a war in a day, and you don’t make everybody happy on abortion ever.

Because abortion is an evil to conservatives and a sacrament to liberals, there will never be a compromise where everybody comes out happy. 

Trump danced into Washington with the pro-lifers in 2016, and delivered for them. Now he is switching gears. Politically he thinks it makes sense, although pro-choicers will never embrace him. But most Independents aren’t rabid pro-choicers, either. He is trying to grab a few Independents.

So what do pro-lifers who have stuck with Trump have to say? Is this a betrayal, or as with COVID is it simply Trump doing what he has to? I have been shocked at how many conservatives have defended Trump on COVID and attacked Republicans like DeSantis and Kemp, demonstrating an ability to suspend all reason out of love for Trump. 

But Trump’s attack on DeSantis’ heartbeat bill–calling it a “terrible thing” requires rejecting one of the most important pro-life victories in our lifetime. Are pro-lifers seriously willing to do that just to support Donald Trump? Trump didn’t just embrace compromise–he attacked heartbeat bills as “terrible.”

Is that a bridge too far? You would think so.

If Trump had stuck to the “let’s compromise” rhetoric it would be fairly easy to give him a pass–stopping abortions at 12-15 weeks is much better than abortion until birth and would save countless lives.

But actually attacking “terrible” an abortion restriction at 6 weeks means that Trump’s pro-life supporters have to move far to the Left. Are they willing to do that?

In 2012 or 2016 taking this stance would doom a candidate with pro-lifers. In 2024? I am not so sure.

The key to resolving the abortion controversy, Trump says, is to “come up with a number of weeks or months . . . a number that’s going to make people happy.” Presumably that’s more than six weeks but less than six months. He promises further that “we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”

Peace is a laudable objective. But tens of millions of Americans prioritize peace in the womb: an end to the violence of abortion. They will and should accept provisional compromises that extend protection to some unborn children when they cannot secure protection for all. They will and should not accept the exposure of hundreds of thousands of unborn children to legal killing on a permanent basis. If the debate is to end, it will have to be because pro-lifers give up, lose influence, or persuade enough of our fellow citizens to prevail. Trump’s goal appears to be one or both of the first two outcomes, but none of them is in prospect.

Florida, Ohio, Georgia, and Iowa all have the sort of pro-life laws that Trump is now condemning. How would he have those states please everyone in the debate? Would he sign a law forcing them to allow abortions after six weeks? Side with the legal activists trying to wipe out these laws? Convince pro-lifers in those states that they should retreat from legal protections they have already won?

The correct answer is that he hasn’t given the matter a moment’s thought. What he has doubtless thought about is the short-term politics of his new position. He is banking that he has enough goodwill from pro-lifers for his admittedly substantial past services that we will gladly acquiesce in our own marginalization. Whether he is right in making that bet is something pro-lifers will have to decide.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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