This morning, Donald Trump published a letter via the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), outlining his newfound commitment to the pro-life cause and tapping SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser to serve as the national chairwoman of his campaign’s pro-life coalition.
From Trump’s letter:
Hillary Clinton’s unwavering commitment to advancing taxpayer-funded abortion on-demand stands in stark contrast to the commitments I’ve made to advance the rights of unborn children and their mothers when elected president.
The letter goes on to highlight four central planks of his pro-life commitment:
‐Nominating pro-life justices to the Supreme Court;
‐Signing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide;
‐Defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions and reallocating their funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive health care for women;
‐Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions;
The last of these promises — though it is somewhat unclear what Trump means by “permanent law” — comes in the wake of the newly minted Democratic commitment to doing away with the Hyde amendment, a rider that has been attached to federal appropriations bills since Roe v. Wade to ensure that taxpayer funding does not go toward abortion.
Abolishing Hyde has become a central push on the part of Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion action groups, and this year marks the first time that the Democratic party has included this goal in its party platform. Hillary Clinton has indicated her strong commitment to following through on this goal; as she often puts it, if “abortion rights” cannot be accessed, they are not a right at all. Her running mate Tim Kaine has flip-flopped several times in his stance on Hyde, but currently he supports the Democratic plan to abolish it.
“Not only has Mr. Trump doubled down on his three existing commitments to the pro-life movement, he has gone a step further in pledging to protect the Hyde Amendment and the conscience rights of millions of pro-life taxpayers,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “The contrast could not be clearer between the two tickets.”
But not everyone is so sure that Trump is truly committed to the pro-life cause. In late March, National Review Online’s David French lamented Trump’s confusing and misleading comments about wanting to punish women who have had an abortion. More recently, French wrote that those on the religious right are mistaken to believe that Trump will champion their core issues such as the pro-life cause, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. It’s also worth noting that Trump did not mention abortion a single time during the Republican National Convention in mid-July; a candidate truly committed to the cause likely would pay at least some attention to the issue.
It’s difficult to ignore these concerns, especially given that the best argument against Trump’s sincerity is his own track record. After all, before today’s letter, Trump’s chief comment about Planned Parenthood was that “millions of women are helped” by the group, and to verify this statement, he cited the group’s own statistic that abortion comprises only three percent of its services, a claim debunked most recently by a new Live Action video. The most substantial reason he’s given for his conversion on this issue was in a GOP primary debate, during which he explained that he became pro-life after witnessing a friend decide not to have an abortion, and the resulting child ended up being “a total superstar.”
While it might be possible that Trump has had an authentic change of heart about abortion, it seems highly unlikely that this is the case, especially given that the vast majority of evidence up to this point contradicts his most recent claims. And especially considering his general untrustworthiness and his frequent “changes of heart” on nearly every issue, it’s hard to believe that this particular conversion is one on which we can trust him to follow through.