SAN DIEGO, April 2, 2016 —Once again, Donald Trump spoke first and thought about what he said afterwards. Once again, his political opponents circled the waters faster than sharks on a bleeding swimmer.
Pressed by MSNBC host Chris Matthews at a town hall meeting regarding punishment should abortion ever become legalized, the once pro-choice but currently pro-life candidate said “There has to be some form of punishment.”
It didn’t take a prophet to predict that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would weigh in immediately:
“If you make abortion a crime — you make it illegal — then you make women and doctors criminals.”
Equally predictable, but much sadder, was the response from Trump’s remaining two Republican competitors, both of whom describe themselves as also being pro-life.
“The past 24 hours revealed in the clearest way yet that Donald Trump is not prepared to be president. On top of all of his previous inflammatory statements, yesterday he proposed punishing women who receive abortions…”
“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention…Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world,”
Trump has since offered a newer answer:
“…The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman…The woman is a victim in this case, as is the life in her womb.”
Inasmuch as “objective journalists” like Chris Matthew apparently bring up abortion with Republican candidates in an attempt to trip them up, Pro-Life politicians would do well to harness some better communication skills.
Trump is not bad on his positions when he finally thinks them through. But communication wise, the man is a double-edged sword. His greatest appeal is also his greatest liability.
It is refreshing to see a candidate talk off the cuff without resorting to a lot of canned responses placed in his mouth by political handlers.
On the other hand, given the amount of times Trump has walked his comments back, or explained the next day what he “truly meant,” the man would be well served to occasionally say something like, “Right now let’s just concentrate on changing the law as regards abortion. There is time enough later to discuss the consequences for violating the law.”
On the other hand, politically cautious words are just as bad. It is tiresome to hear candidates hem and haw to the point where they essentially say nothing. For example, Kasich and Cruz are not offering a whole lot of detail regarding how a new law about abortion would be enforced.
GOP candidates need not shy away from this issue. Instead, they should learn to discuss abortion in ways that make sense.
They can begin by pointing out the obvious: While there is time to discuss future details, certainly there can be no effective law unless there are consequences for its violation. The situation may be different for different people. A middle school girl (who in some states can get an abortion without parental approval) does not understand what she is doing, while an older woman or the doctor performing the procedure would likely understand.
There are other differences: Abortion for cases of rape and the mother’s health are in a completely separate category from abortion for convenience. Judges or juries could take such situations into consideration.
This does not need to be “one size fits all.”
We need not assume that every abortion would invoke jail time. There are a variety of other options, from financial, to public service, to a mercifully suspended sentence, to no sentence at all, depending on the situation.
Let us also keep in mind that the Christian wing of the pro-life movement (for the most part) is not about punishment. Their aim is to see the practice stopped and to offer forgiveness. This is about the human rights of the unborn baby. This is not about jail time.
Far more important than discussion of consequences, is discussion of the abortion practice itself. Here, once again, pro-life candidates could benefit from a better choice of words.
When conservatives speak out against abortion, they are swiftly portrayed as being anti- woman even though most of the leading activists in the pro-life movement are women, not men, women! There’s even an organization called Feminists For Life. Their mission statement says:
“Feminists for Life of America recognizes that abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women. We are dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions. Women deserve better® than abortion.”
Contrary to media portrayal and Democratic talking points with it’s “war on women” accusations, conservatives care very much about women. They also care about baby women.
And they don’t believe babies are property simply because of a geographical location like the womb.
They may disagree with the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling by the Supreme Court. But 20-20 hindsight has all decent Americans disagreeing with the 1857 Dred Scott Vs Sandford ruling by the Supreme Court which stated that African American slaves were property whose owners could do anything they wanted to them.
This sometimes included beating and killing.
So be careful. Our abortion discussions of today may look very different a hundred years from now when history looks back and marvels at the common practices of so-called “progressive” America.
With better arguments, we might just turn the tables. It would be nice to see the liberal candidates and pundits sweat a for a change.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and a columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net