Trump’s Abortion Policy

Trump’s Abortion Policy April 23, 2024

We talked about Donald Trump’s new abortion policy in our weekend discussion forum.  But more needs to be said.

The Federalist‘s John Daniel Davidson–who is most emphatically not a Never Trumper–has written a thought-provoking article entitled On Abortion, Donald Trump Goes The Way Of Stephen A. Douglas.

The parallels with the antagonists in the Lincoln-Douglas debates are pretty exact.  In leaving the issue up to the states, says Davidson, Trump takes the position “that popular sovereignty, not moral principle, should decide the abortion question, just as Douglas insisted popular sovereignty in the new federal territories must decide the slavery question.”

And the controversy over abortion and the controversy over slavery are absolutely parallel.  Davidson explains:

Because of the first principles at stake here, the logic of America’s antebellum slavery debate applies entirely to the abortion debate of our time. Indeed, the two issues are closer than even most pro-lifers realize. Today’s Democrats view abortion just as antebellum Democrats viewed slavery. They think the constitutional rights of an entire class of people (women) depend for their vindication on the denial of all rights to another class of people (the unborn). This is precisely what southern Democrats believed about blacks and slavery, and why they were so adamantly against emancipation.

But the two issues are alike in another way as well: They both represent a grave danger to freedom itself and the survival of our republic. In the runup to the Civil War, Lincoln argued over and over that slavery wasn’t just bad for slaves but also bad for free men and ultimately for republican self-government.

For Lincoln, Douglas’s view of self-government–“that one group of men could enslave another, so long as they voted on it”— was flawed.

Such a view of self-government eventually leads to its ruin because it posits every majority as an unlimited sovereign and therefore as a potential tyrant. Part of preserving freedom and self-government, said Lincoln, was recognizing its inherent limits. There are some things not even a majority can impose, like slavery. “When the white man governs himself … and also governs another man, that is more than self-government — that is despotism.”

Moral neutrality on abortion in our time is like moral neutrality on slavery in Douglas’ time. It might seem politically savvy, a way to thread the needle on a seemingly intractable issue for the sake of building a coalition, but ultimately, it’s a recipe for tyranny and anarchy. If the unborn are Americans who have a right to life, as some states maintain, then that right cannot simply be waived because majorities in other states want to deny them that right.

After all, democracy hinges on equality.  Lincoln also believed that a nation cannot long be divided on this issue–eventually, it would become either all slave or all free.  This will also prove true for abortion, says Davidson, and the states’ rights approach will eventually mean that every state will allow abortion.

Pro-life evangelical Mike Sabo defends Trump at American Reformer in his article Donald Trump, Abortion, and Big Eva:  Evangelicals Need to Think Politically about Abortion.  He says that Trump has delivered for the pro-life movement, that he is simply being politically realistic, and that he is the pro-life movement’s only hope right now.

But I’d like to raise a different issue.  What is the perception of Trump’s decision in the Republican party?  The Drudge Report announced MAGA ditches pro-life cause…. The link was to an article at Semafor entitled  Trump gave MAGA politicians permission to move left on abortion. Some are taking it.

That article focuses on Kari Lake, a MAGA firebrand, who is running for the senate in Arizona.  After the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state’s l864 law prohibiting abortion is still in effect–an unpopular decision in that red state–Lake has seemingly reversed her previous pro-life stance.  Now that Trump has said abortion should be left up to the states, Lake is now calling for the Arizona law to be overturned, so that women can “have more choices.”  Other pro-Trump politicians are following suit, including Sen. Rick Scott in Florida, who now says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week limit is too restrictive.

Then there was the Babylon Bee lampoon:  Trump Proves He’s a True Republican by Compromising on Abortion.

“I’m the biggest, most beautiful Republican,” Trump said in a statement to the media. “In case anyone still had any doubts, just look at how I’m able to brush aside any hint of deeply held principles on abortion and do whatever I think may result in Democrats voting for me, which they never will. But all great Republicans compromise on abortion, and so do I. I’m just as willing to hang unborn babies out to dry as any other Republican, maybe more so. Many are saying that.”

GOP leaders who had been reluctant to back Trump took his latest move toward the political center as undeniable proof of his loyalty. “This is what we’ve been looking for,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “All of that ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘America First’ stuff made us feel concerned, but now that he’s showing a willingness to cave on abortion, we know he’s one of us.”

So much for the claim to be an anti-establishment Republican!

And so much for the political clout that the pro-life movement once had!


Photo:  Stephen A. Douglas by Julian Vannerson. Edited by Kosobay. –,,_1859.png, CC BY-SA 4.0,



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