Why the Pro-Life Movement May be Damaged for Decades if We Help Elect Donald Trump for President – Guest Post
(this is a guest post from Richard Poupard. The original post was published on his facebook wall, and you can find that here)
Authors Note: I wrote this piece prior to the video recording of Trump making light of sexually assaulting women and stating that he gets away with it because of his celebrity. I believe it bolsters my argument but I choose not to address it directly, for it is fairly self-evident.
I have voted for the Republican nominee for president in every election since I became eligible to vote (7 in a row). I am firmly convinced of the intrinsic value of the unborn and have defended our case passionately on these pages and elsewhere. I reject the arguments of those like Rachel Held Evans who claim that the most pro-life thing to do is to vote for the more pro-choice candidate. I do not endorse any of the major party candidates for this election. However, looking at the oncoming train wreck of this cycle, I have come to a very troubling conclusion:
The election of Donald Trump has the potential to damage the pro-life cause to the point that it could take years if not decades to recover.
I believe that we sometimes forget that our goal is not only to use the political system to nominate and confirm Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v Wade. Our goal is also to impact our culture to value every human being because they are made in the Image of God. To value those most vulnerable and at risk and protect them from those more powerful. To respect other human beings not for their power or achievement, but due to the inherent dignity given to them by their Creator. To protect the life and dignity of not only human beings in the womb, but each and every one of us. Those are the bedrock principles of our movement, and without them, we are merely another group seeking political power.
I have not only been convicted of the rightness of the rational defense of the pro-life view, but I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t been more effective in the marketplace of ideas. Our rational case is very strong, and when the public is not convicted by a strong rational argument, it is often the case that the reason is fear. In this case, there is fear that in an attempt to protect the unborn, pro-life advocates desire to “turn back the clock” to many of the societal ills and attitudes that plagued women in the pre-Roe period. Compounding this is the notion that many pro-lifers believe that almost worships the time before Roe – a “Back to the good old days” mentality that reinforces that fear. We tend to forget that despite the fact that abortion was illegal then, the cultural bias against women–though not morally equivalent to abortion–was also a serious moral wrong. We can save prenatal children without making the same mistakes we have made in the past.
It reminds me of someone who speaks about how wonderful air travel used to be in the early days. Travel for those who could afford it was a glamourous event in the 60s, with beautiful stewardesses serving well-dressed travelers in an opulent setting. I can understand why it appears better than today’s experience. However, we quickly forget that this wonderful experience was provided by crass sexist policies of the airline owners. These beautiful stewardesses were fired if they weighed over 130 pounds, became married, or turned 32. Women had to endure degrading measurements of their bust, waist and hips by their bosses in order to keep their job. Yes, I too would love to improve the present experience of air travel, but at the expense of supporting sexist degrading policies that we have had in the past.
This fear often is expressed with the arguments that pro-lifers do not care or value women in an unintended pregnancy situation. Our only concern is her fetus. Of course I strongly disagree with this, and have argued that our support of pregnancy resource centers amongst others as evidence that the vast majority of those claiming to be pro-life care deeply for women. It is a standard for our movement that every human being be valued and respected and there is no need to choose between mother and child. However, I do find that the attitude of many of our opponents is that we do not care if a woman’s value is trampled as long as the fetus is protected. That we are willing to sacrifice the value of adult women as collateral damage as long as someone has the political power help us end abortion. This is absolutely not true, and we should seek to spread that message far and wide.
Enter Donald Trump.
Unlike Trump’s supposed pro-life views, his history regarding the value of women is longstanding, consistent, and well documented. The list of devaluing names that he has used in regards to women is so long that it would get downright boring to read. Just go to his twitter feed and it’s hard to go by a single day that he fails to use an offensive term to a woman. Calling an accomplished journalist a “bimbo” and stating that she had “blood coming out of her wherever” when challenged with his history of sexist comments. Comparing the attractiveness of his Republican rival Ted Cruz’ wife to his (third) wife, a not-so-veiled insinuation that the youthful physical beauty of his wife is evidence of his power and prowess. He has called women “fat”, “pig”, “slob”, “dogs”, and “disgusting animals”.
I could go on for ten more pages but I want to focus on two tweets that reveal so much about his attitude and “old-school” view that is viewed as a legitimate threat to the women that we are trying to reach with the truth of the pro-life position. During the first debate, his opponent criticized his record on treating women, bringing up the example of Trump calling his first Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. He is recorded openly discussing her weight, stating that she went from 116-117 pounds to 160-170 and then stated “this is somebody who likes to eat.” She has since become an American citizen and supports Trump’s opponent.
Cue Trump’s twitter feed:
“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?”
When confronted with evidence of treating women poorly he responds by attacking her sexual history, which had nothing to do with the question at hand. Furthermore, he speaks very boldly for someone who has bragged about his extra-marital affairs and has spoken on a national radio show telling the host the celebrities that he would “do”. Someone who has appeared in a playboy soft-core video himself. This harkens back to a time in which a man’s sexual history and prowess were celebrated while a single women’s history brought shame and rejection. The act in which he brags of makes her disgusting. He’s a stud. She’s a whore. And a fat one at that.
“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
Trump brags about his own affairs, but has repeatedly referred to his opponent’s husband’s affairs as evidence of her inability to lead. This harkens back to the days a man’s infidelity could be blamed on his wife not performing adequately in the bedroom. A man has got to get his somewhere, and if his wife ceases to “satisfy” him he is justified in breaking his marriage vows. Somehow she’s to blame. This view is not only antiquated; it is absolutely disgusting.
The point of view that these tweets (and many more) represent should be loudly rejected and disavowed by anyone who believes that human beings are intrinsically valuable. Acceptance of anyone who openly espouses these views and treats women as he does undermines our arguments that we do care about all humans. Stating these views from the office of the presidency as a result of our support will have a devastating effect on those we are trying to reach for years to come. Making a principled argument that we care about women dissolves in the aftermath of supporting a Trump presidency. Is it worth it?
On the other hand, Trump claims to be the more pro-life candidate, and has offerred an impressive list of SCOTUS candidates that he will nominate if elected. Of course, his pro-life convictions are quite recently acquired, he did not mention abortion in his acceptance speech, his lifestyle and personal decisions are quite contrary to those with pro-life beliefs, and he tends to change his mind on many issues. Shouldn’t we automatically support the candidate that gives us the best chance to overturn Roe v Wade? The candidate with the best chance to increase our political power and thus enact just laws?
One principled pro-life argument is about power vs. intrinsic value. It is wrong to allow someone more powerful to impose their immoral will on a powerless and vulnerable human being. We do not allow a powerful individual to determine our value and worth. Yet the empty promise of short term political power is the only thing that Trump brings to the table. In our just quest to overturn a wrong court decision we may have become blind to our founding principles. As long as we endorse a sexist buffoon that merely gives lip service to the pro-life cause, we open ourselves up to the argument that we care little about other human beings. This is a sacrifice I do not believe we can afford to make.
Even under the very unlikely best case scenario, the benefits of Trump are highly questionable. If he keeps his promise and nominates pro-life judges, then somehow develops the political acumen to get them confirmed through a hostile senate, what will be actually gained? I understand that many believe that Trump will limit the potential legal damage that could occur from 4 more years of a Democratic president. However, what then? The damage that would be done to our pro-life principles could last for decades, as well as our ability to elect solid pro-life politicians in the future. Gaining a small amount of political ground while increasing our difficulty in reaching those that we need to reach is a price that we should not be willing to pay.
I do not look forward to another pro-choice president, but our movement has survived them in the past, and I believe is strong enough to do so in the future, as long as we keep our principles intact. If we are committed to long term change and remain devoted for human rights and dignity for each and every human being, womb to grave, we will insist that those who desire our support share our principles. We will reject candidates from either side of the political spectrum who degrade the dignity and respect of human beings by their actions and words. We will not be swayed by empty promises for potential short term political gain at the long term expense of our core principles.
As pro-life advocates, we all share the goal to eliminate the horror of elective abortion as soon as possible. We seek a culture that values each and every human being. Virtually every pro-life advocate I’ve encountered shares these views, and they are essential to support our viewpoint. Should we signal every politician that you may gain our support merely by stating a desire to overturn Roe v Wade? Even if they have historically disregarded virtually every principle that we stand on? I realize that most pro-lifers did not support Trump until the other Republican candidates failed. But by our continued support we still remain aligned with him, and bear some of the stink that his presidency would emit.
I believe the long term consequences of supporting Trump outweigh the potential short term political benefits from his presidency. We have a history of recovering from pro-choice presidential cycles – but our ideals and principles have never been tested by supporting someone with a disdain for human respect, value and dignity like Donald Trump.
Richard J. Poupard