As is his wont, Donald Trump stirred up a ruckus today when he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that women who procure illegal abortions should somehow be “punished” by legal authorities. As obnoxious as the statement was to every serious person both pro-life and pro-choice, it may not have been the worst part of his answer.
While trying to explain his position (or trying to make up a position as he went along), Trump also stepped into this thicket (as reported by the Daily Mail): “Matthews asked him how he would go about banning abortions. ‘You go back to a position like they had,’ he replied, ‘where they would perhaps go to illegal places, but we have to ban it.’”
Scrutinize that for a moment. If that doesn’t play into the hands of the anti-life movement, nothing does. This is a wink-wink/nudge-nudge to the idea that illegal abortion mills or perhaps even back alleys are to be accepted as alternatives to legal abortions — rather than that, say, adoptions should be promoted, along with community support for pre-natal care and both pre- and post-natal counseling.
Trump’s statement carries the sense of the widespread existence of speakeasies during Prohibition, as if abortion is something to be officially “banned” but culturally still condoned, like imbibing alcohol.
Of course, Trump late this afternoon walked back his statement, saying he would punish only the abortionist, not the woman who procures the abortion. But the fact that he struggled with the question in the first place, and then took so many hours to recant, is deeply offensive to caring pro-lifers. And the very idea that he would volunteer the idea of going “to illegal places,” in the context of punishing women who get caught, was effectively an outrageous invitation to use just such illegal places.
What a mess.