The pro-life movement must make it clear: Donald Trump does not represent us.
President Trump never represented the values of a pro-life movement centered on equality, nonviolence and nondiscrimination. Yes, Mr. Trump secured some victories for the pro-life movement: His administration moved to end U.S. taxpayer–funded abortion in developing countries, fought back against the pro-abortion agenda of the United Nations’ human rights bodies and appointed the first pro-life woman to the Supreme Court.
But government funding of Planned Parenthood remains at an all-time high, and another one of Mr. Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, is not turning out to be the ally we wanted. As a whole-life advocate, I am also worried about Mr. Trump’s dismantling of the social safety net and what that means for working families and single parents.
The credit for pro-life victories over the past four years belongs to the pro-life movement more than it does to Mr. Trump.
The credit for pro-life victories over the past four years belongs to the pro-life movement more than it does to Mr. Trump, who called himself “pro-choice in every respect” in 1999. During his campaign for the Republican nomination in 2016, he exhibited profound ignorance of the goals and values of the pro-life movement. Prominent pro-life leaders chastised him for saying of legalized abortion “we have to leave it that way,” and a joint letter from the leaders of pro-life groups urged the nomination of “anyone but Donald Trump.” The Susan B. Anthony List and other groups deserve great credit for exacting pro-life commitments from him before the 2016 general election. He has kept those promises, but if pro-life leaders had not forced his hand, the past four years could have turned out very differently.
It also helped that key members of the pro-life movement joined the Trump administration. They included Charmaine Yoest, the former president of Americans United for Life, who served as assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services; senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway; and, of course, Vice President Mike Pence. Whether or not they recognized Mr. Trump’s character flaws, they saw the value in being able to advance a pro-life agenda.
That kind of nuance, however, may be lost on the American public. Mr. Trump was the one signing pro-life laws and executive orders, and that image—now more tarnished than ever, following his encouragement of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters refusing to accept the result of last year’s presidential election—carries a huge risk. If Mr. Trump is seen as the face of the pro-life movement in the United States, we will have scored a goal against ourselves. His sexist insults, contempt for disabled individuals and history of racism are at odds with the fundamental principles of the pro-life movement. We cannot claim to care about women facing crisis pregnancies, defend the lives of disabled persons or combat the disproportionate impact of abortion on people of color if Mr. Trump is our poster boy. On whole-life issues, his record is abysmal; there are no better examples than his dismissive response to the Covid-19 pandemic and his barely noticed resumption of the federal death penalty.
Mr. Trump has neither the moral character nor the principled outlook to be the face of a movement centered around love.
Over the next few months, the pro-life movement has a chance to make it abundantly clear: Donald J. Trump does not represent us.
Of course, the extremism of most Democratic Party leaders on this issue is appalling. At Democrats for Life of America, we have been the loudest voice in challenging our own party. We will continue to challenge the Biden administration to end the great inconsistency in its platform: equality for all humans, except for the weakest ones. We will be the first to criticize Mr. Biden if and when he acts to end the Hyde Amendment prohibiting federal tax dollars from funding abortion, codify Roe v. Wade, pack the Supreme Court with pro-abortion activists or end the “Mexico City Policy” against funding abortion in other nations. We do this out of concern not only for the unborn but for the Democratic Party and in the name of its best interests: We want to defend its integrity and save the party we belong to.
Likewise, we hope that pro-life leaders finally move on from their alliance with Mr. Trump. As his destructive behavior since the election has only made clearer, he has neither the moral character nor the principled outlook to be the face of a movement centered around love.
The good news is that there are thousands of better pro-life and whole-life advocates who do represent our values, across the political divide. These range from the 13 new pro-life Republican women in the House of Representatives—to Democrats like state senator Katrina Jackson, Louisiana’s most vocal proponent of pro-life and whole-life legislation. They also include Lila Rose, the founder of the nonprofit media group Live Action, and Aimee Murphy, the founder of consistent life ethic group Rehumanize International.
The pro-life movement has no want of principled, consistent and compassionate leaders who can bring our case to the American public. They are the face of the pro-life movement. Donald Trump never was, and he never will be.
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