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Does Trump Really Have Any Policy on Abortion?

S.E. Cupp, Tribune Content Agency on

The day was Aug. 18, 1988. New Orleans. President Ronald Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush took the stage at the Republican National Convention to accept the nomination for president.

He’d been lagging in the polls behind Massachusetts Gov. Mike Dukakis, and Jack Kemp suggested an idea that could save his campaign: a pledge. Speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote it up and Bush made history that night: “Read my lips: no new taxes.”

The line worked — immediately after the convention, Bush surged in the polls and went on to beat Dukakis. Ultimately, however, the pledge was also his undoing.

Bush would go on to raise multiple taxes, including the income tax rate, payroll and excise taxes, and others. That year Republicans lost seats in the House and Senate, and in 1992, Bill Clinton used the reneged pledge to beat him.

I give all this history to state the obvious: issues matter, and candidates should be clear and honest about where they stand.

One issue poised to play big in the 2024 presidential election is women’s reproductive rights.

From abortion to contraception and in vitro fertilization, it drove Democrats to significant wins in the 2022 midterms, and they’re hoping Republican extremism on the issue helps them again in November.

And the Republican Party is extreme. Deeply unpopular rulings and new legislation everywhere from Alabama to Arizona have demonstrated just how far some Republican lawmakers and conservative judges are willing to go to limit women’s reproductive rights. But the party’s extremism isn’t the only problem. Their nominee is.

Former President Donald Trump can’t seem to land on a decipherable or even singular position when it comes to reproductive rights — he’s been all over the map.

His latest mixed message came this week, while talking to a Pittsburgh news anchor. “Do you support any restrictions on a person’s right to contraception?” asked Jon Delano.

“Well, we’re looking at that and I’m going to have a policy on that very shortly. And I think it’s something that you’ll find interesting. And I’d see — it’s another issue that’s very interesting. But you will find it, I think, very smart. I think it’s a smart decision, but we’ll be releasing it very soon.”

If you squint, you can sort of see an answer in there — “we’re looking at that.” But the rest was, as usual, vagaries and dodges.

He followed that word salad with another go-to when trying — trying — to talk about abortion: “the states.”

“We are also, you know, things really do have a lot to do with the states. And some states are going to have different policies than others.”

 

Now, before you get too alarmed, relax — Trump changed his mind just a few hours later.

“I HAVE NEVER, AND WILL NEVER ADVOCATE IMPOSING RESTRICTIONS ON BIRTH CONTROL, or other contraceptives,” he screamed on Truth Social. “This is a Democrat fabricated lie…”

Never mind the fact that Trump himself hinted he might ban contraceptives, not Democrats; or the fact that he could have easily answered Delano’s question this way instead of rambling about some “very interesting” and “smart” mystery policy. The clarification only helped to illuminate how unsteady Trump is on this issue.

On one hand, he’s repeatedly taken credit for overturning Roe v. Wade, which allowed many states to ban or limit abortion access. On the other, he’s warned Republicans against removing exceptions. “Other than certain parts of the country, you’re not going to win on this issue.”

On one hand, he’s scolded other Republicans for proposing six-week bans, which he called “too harsh.” On the other, he’s taken credit for those same abortion bans: “Without me, there would be no six weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to.” He’s also refused to commit to a number of weeks after which he’d support a ban.

On one hand, he relegates the issue to one of state’s rights. On the other, when states like Arizona go ahead and exert their right — in this case by banning abortion — he criticized it.

He’s historically been schizophrenic on the issue, too, proclaiming in the late ’90s to be “pro-choice” and saying he’d support “partial-birth abortion,” and then flipping to become the self-anointed “most pro-life president ever.”

Whichever side of the issue voters are on — and inside the Republican Party there’s a broad spectrum — they certainly deserve to know where their candidate stands on it. He can barely articulate his position, let alone actual policies on what will be a defining issue of the 2024 election.

Perhaps one quote summed it up best. When asked if he’d sign an abortion ban, and how it would work, he replied, “It could be state, or it could be federal. I don’t frankly care.”

Maybe that’s the truest thing about his position.

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(S.E. Cupp is the host of "S.E. Cupp Unfiltered" on CNN.)

©2024 S.E. Cupp. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



 

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