Yesterday, Donald Trump yet again demonstrated his lack of understanding on the abortion issue, expressing his desire to add exceptions to the Republican platform’s position on abortion. Asked on NBC’s “Today” whether he would want the GOP’s platform on abortion to include exceptions in the case of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother, Mr. Trump responded, “Yes I would. Absolutely. For the three exceptions I would.”
Now, many Republicans have supported such exceptions, regardless of whether or not they were included in the official platform. But many others believe, as the platform currently states, that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which can not be infringed” and that this right is not dependent on the circumstances of the child’s conception. Codifying exceptions into the platform would recast this position as an extreme one outside of what either party is willing to support, undermining decades of work from the pro-life movement. It’s unclear what Trump thinks is the practical benefit of this proposal. It wouldn’t win him any votes. All it would do is create a rift in the party and alienate the conservative and evangelical base.
Trump may very well be sincere when he says he finds abortions distasteful, but it’s hard to find his principles behind this belief, or what he plans to do about it. Often, when he’s delved into specifics, it’s been entirely out of step with the pro-life movement, whether it’s been his praise for Planned Parenthood, his suggestion that women should be punished for receiving abortions, or, a few days later, his claim that abortion laws ought to just remain the same. Even when he’s walked back or clarified these statements, he’s still varied on whether it’s a state or federal issue.
Trump’s grasp of the issue is obviously tenuous at best. The question is whether he doesn’t understand, doesn’t care, or both.
Danny Cannon works for the American Principles Project.