Abortion

Trump and Clinton Trip on Abortion Taboos

The two presidential candidates accidentally complicate the debate.

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When Donald Trump said women who obtain illegal abortions should face "some form of punishment," it was a rookie mistake. New to the anti-abortion movement, the Republican presidential front-runner did not realize he was supposed to view women who terminate their pregnancies as victims rather than perpetrators.

By contrast, when Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee and a longtime champion of abortion rights, called a fetus an "unborn person," she really should have known better. Her stumble, like Trump's, exposed a taboo that facilitates blinkered thinking about abortion.

Trump, who used to describe himself as "pro-choice," says he changed his mind over the years as a result of "stories" from friends and acquaintances. Yet there seems to be no public record of this conversion prior to a speech that Trump gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2011, when he was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Even if we assume that Trump's switch from pro-choice to pro-life was sincere as well as politically convenient, it's clear he did not familiarize himself with the movement he was joining. Had he done so, he would have anticipated the barrage of criticism he provoked from his ostensible allies by saying, during an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews last week, that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who defy the abortion ban he favors.

"The National Right to Life Committee unequivocally opposes the killing of innocent unborn children and works unceasingly to have them protected in law," the group's president, Carol Tobias, said in response to Trump's comments. "Unborn children and their mothers are victims in an abortion. In adopting statutes prohibiting the performance of abortions, National Right to Life has long opposed the imposition of penalties on the woman on whom an abortion is attempted or performed. Rather, penalties should be imposed against any abortionist who would take the life of an unborn child in defiance of statutes prohibiting abortions."

Trump immediately and uncharacteristically fell in line, parroting that position in a statement issued the same evening. But his confusion is understandable: If abortion is murder, why should women who hire professional killers to do away with their "innocent unborn children" get a pass?

Perhaps the rationale for exempting women who obtain abortions from criminal liability is that they do not understand the nature of their actions. But the same excuse applies to abortionists, since they generally do not think of their work as baby killing.

What is the proper legal response when the pregnant woman and the abortionist are the same person? If a woman takes a drug that induces a miscarriage, does she deserve sympathy or condemnation?

It is understandable that pro-life activists do not want to appear callous by holding women who obtain abortions responsible for their actions. But they can avoid that unpopular position only by denying the moral agency of pregnant women, as if the same hormones that cause morning sickness erase the ability to choose between good and evil.

If the pro-life movement does not want us to think about what is going on inside a pregnant woman's brain, the pro-choice movement does not want us to think about what is going on inside her uterus. Here is where Clinton erred on Sunday, when she declared, during an appearance on Meet the Press, that "the unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights."

That statement is legally nonsensical, since a "person" has constitutional rights by definition. In fact, the abortion debate largely comes down to the question of whether and when a fetus counts as a person.

Clinton's comment is also rhetorically problematic, conceding the fetus's humanity while denying its right to life. An Illinois pro-choice activist complained on Twitter that Clinton's formulation "further stigmatizes #abortion."

For those who see abortion as murder, of course, the stigma is entirely appropriate. By accidentally straying from the party line, Trump has highlighted some inconvenient implications of that view.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Wrong!
    Trump exposed the massive hypocrisy of extreme pro-lifers. Matthews even asked how abortion can be murder if the perpetrator is never punished. Trump’s ignorance of the issue left him with mere logic and moral consistency.

    it’s extreme pro-lifers who angrily snarl that abortion is murder, but not really. They stand outside abortion clinics screaming “murderer” at pregnant women … but it’s not REALLY murder. (laughing)

    If I hire somebody to kill you, have I committed a crime? Why is this rocket science to pro-life zealots?
    And how can these shameless moral hypocrites lecture anyone on values and morals?
    Political cowardice vs moral values.

    1. those snarling protestors might think it is murder and be consistent in asking for punishment to the woman. A lot of pro-lifers think punishment is deserving. I am one of them. The issue, which is wrought with hypocrisy, is victim to the gradual increase in understanding of what abortion is. The pro-life argument is much stronger today than it was 100 years ago. However the ‘softness’ of 100 years ago has been grandfathered into the current generation.

      1. those snarling protestors might think it is murder and be consistent in asking for punishment to the woman.

        Precisely. And FUCK the Constitution, along with the concept of equal, unalienable and/or God-given rights,

        The pro-life argument is much stronger today than it was 100 years ago

        Umm. when and how was the concept of “equal and unalienable rights” repealed??

    2. If there’s one topic guaranteed to get Hihn’s post, it’s an abortion topic. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post by you that doesn’t bring up abortion, and how horrible you think pro-lifers are.

      1. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post by you that doesn’t bring up abortion, and how horrible you think pro-lifers are.

        Only exteme pro-lifers. You folks keep making monumenetal asses of yourselves.
        1) It was Jacob Sullum who “brought it up,” Sluggo, The topic of the page!
        2) One more time for the morally challenged, a woman’s unalienable right to Liberty is precisely equal to the fetal child’s unalienable right to Life. One more time, check the definition of unalienable.
        3) Do we believe Jefferson and the founders or some manipulative televangelists and their cult?

        1. On point #2, I disagree. No person’s unalienable right can place burden/obligation on some other person. The “child’s unalienable right to life” is contingent on, and therefore burdensome of the woman’s rights, and so subject to the woman’s choice.

          Now a case could be made that at some point the woman could be divested of that burden by some suitable medical procedure, but up until that time the woman would and should be able to terminate the pregnancy. There is also the issue of who would/should pay for that – the woman or the State.

          1. If rights are in conflict, which one should be held in higher regard?

            I’d think that life is more important than liberty.

            First, liberty can be returned if there’s an error, life cannot.

            Second, in the vast majority of cases, the woman made choices that caused her to become pregnant.

            Therefor, the restrictions on her liberty can be seen as the foreseeable consequences of her actions. The person’s who’s life is at risk is there through no fault or decision of their own.

            1. If rights are in conflict, which one should be held in higher regard?
              I’d think that life is more important than liberty.

              You’re entitled to that. But Jefferson and the Founders disagreed and their decisions oprevails.

              First, liberty can be returned if there’s an error, life cannot.

              So the state may violate your individual liberty, if (it claims) that would save the life of a stranger three states away? The Founders were well aware of the depths of possible tyranny. The Inquisition was still committing church/state atrocities until nearly our Civil War. And we’d suffered the Salem witchcraft trials on our own soil..

              Second, in the vast majority of cases, the woman made choices that caused her to become pregnant.

              How is that relevant? How does exercising her individual rights cause her to forfeit ,,, her individual rights?

              Therefor, the restrictions on her liberty can be seen as the foreseeable consequences of her actions.

              Are there any other instances where one forfeits one’s rights by exercising them?

              The person’s who’s life is at risk is there through no fault or decision of their own.

              Only relevant if the rights of f Life and Liberty were not, by definition precisely equal, which they are.

              1. No, I’m not claiming three states away. If rights are in immediate conflict, such as between the mother and unborn child she carried in her womb.

                Choices are relevant if the situation that the woman (or anyone else) finds herself in the the direct and foreseeable result of informed choices. That’s called personal responsibility. People are allowed to reap the befits of their good decisions, and also be required to suffer the consequences of their bad decisions.

                Also, many times that there are rights in conflict is because of government intervention in free association. Hobby Lobby wouldn’t be an issue if the government didn’t require the company to provide health insurance to their employees. The gay wedding cakes wouldn’t be an issue if the plaintiffs were required to show actual harm, rather than simply being offended.

                1. No, I’m not claiming three states away.

                  You don’t know what a principle is?

                  Choices are relevant if the situation that the woman (or anyone else) finds herself in the the direct and foreseeable result of informed choices. That’s called personal responsibility.

                  Only if you reject the simple meaning of unalienable … and/or swallow the wacky notion that the only purpose for sex is procreation, an OBVIOUS rejection of God’s clearly expressed Will.

                  People are allowed to reap the befits of their good decisions, and also be required to suffer the consequences of their bad decisions.

                  On what basis is it a bad decision? And how does ANY decision surrender fundamental rights?

                  Also, many times that there are rights in conflict is because of government intervention in free association.

                  Now you make MY argument!!!

                  Hobby Lobby wouldn’t be an issue if? The gay wedding cakes wouldn’t be an issue ?.

                  YES! Government has no power to deny or infringe on fundamental rights.!!!

                  Now APPLY principles .,.. and see you ARE defending government’s power to violate your individual liberty to save the life of a total stranger three states away ? OR a fetus has GREATER rights than that adult. An inconvenient truth.

                  Reminder: BOTH extremes on abortion violate an unalienable right. So both are authoritarian.

              2. I’m much more willing to help people who are in a difficult situation through no fault of their own, which is much different than irresponsible behavior. We can provide a safety net, but not be required to save everyone from their own poor choices.

                1. I’m much more willing to help people who are in a difficult situation through no fault of their own, which is much different than irresponsible behavior.

                  How about your own shamefully irresponsible behavior? Violating the entire founding principle of unaljenable rights … by denying the definition of unalienable because it’s inconvenient.

                  We can provide a safety net, but not be required to save everyone from their own poor choices.

                  The Constitution and Natural Rights define good and bad choices, not you … who denies the core essence of fundamental rights. Judgmentalism has always been the scourge of humanity, one major factor in the creation of libertarianism

          2. On point #2, I disagree. No person’s unalienable right can place burden/obligation on some other person.

            That’s not what unalienable means.

            The “child’s unalienable right to life” is contingent on, and therefore burdensome of the woman’s rights, and so subject to the woman’s choice.

            Assertion. Fallacy detailed later.,

            Now a case could be made that at some point the woman could be divested of that burden by some suitable medical procedure,

            You say fundamental rights are determined by medical procedure?

            but up until that time the woman would and should be able to terminate the pregnancy.

            Of course, She ALWAYS has a right to expel the fetus. But there is no separate right to kill a fetus which can live on its own outside the womb. A live birth must be attempted, and no abortionist allowed in the room. I once spent two consecutive LP national conventions on the Platform Committee, trying to get that into the platform. At the time they REFUSED to defend both sets of rights.

            There is also the issue of who would/should pay for that – the woman or the State.

            That was settled in 1976, when certain federal funds were first forbidden for abortion, except for incest, rape or to save the life of the mother. States may fund abortion with tax dollars including Medicaid, and several do — a few under court order.

        2. My point there was to say every single post I’ve seen by you always mentions abortion, and those evil pro-life Christians, even in topics that mention abortion a grand total of ZERO times. Now do you get what I was saying?

          1. The Elite Elite
            Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post by you that doesn’t bring up abortion, and how horrible you think pro-lifers are.

            Only extreme pro-lifers. You folks keep making monumenetal asses of yourselves.
            1) It was Jacob Sullum who “brought it up,” Sluggo, The topic of the page!
            2) One more time for the morally challenged, a woman’s unalienable right to Liberty is precisely equal to the fetal child’s unalienable right to Life. One more time, check the definition of unalienable.
            3) Do we believe Jefferson and the founders or some manipulative televangelists and their cult?

            My point there was to say every single post I’ve seen by you always mentions abortion,

            You need to read more. And you’re again called out as a liar.

            and those evil pro-life Christians, even in topics that mention abortion a grand total of ZERO times.

            You’e already a proven liar on that very point. I did not bring it up here, and you lie on what I said about pro-lifers.

            Now do you get what I was saying?

            (snicker) AGAIN:
            2) One more time for the morally challenged, a woman’s unalienable right to Liberty is precisely equal to the fetal child’s unalienable right to Life. One more time, check the definition of unalienable.

            Did you check the definition yet, or is to too incon-veeeeeeen-yent?

            1. Are you for real? Seriously?

              1. The Elite Elite|4.7.16 @ 9:03AM|#
                Are you for real? Seriously?

                Blame me because YOU made a public ass of yourself … and I documented your lie?.

            2. Obviously I’m over exaggerating when I say “every post I’ve seen by you is on abortion.” I have seen posts by you that aren’t discussing your views on that topic, but from what I’ve seen (since you seem to be too dense to get that doesn’t mean I’ve seen all your posts, this doesn’t make me a “proven liar” if in fact you more often than not don’t talk about abortion. It simply means most of your posts THAT I HAVE PERSONALLY READ are on the topic of abortion) those are the exceptions. Now do you understand, or are you so dense that your response to this will again be “already proved you a liar?”

              1. Obviously I’m over exaggerating when I say “every post I’ve seen by you is on abortion.”

                And only YOU are allowed to say so????

                I have seen posts by you that aren’t discussing your views on that topic,

                So you lied about that TOO!

                but from what I’ve seen (since you seem to be too dense to get that)

                You just admitted having over-exaggerated … but when I said the same thing, calling you out as a liar, it was because I’m …. DENSE! Or …. tada ….

                this doesn’t make me a “proven liar”

                (snicker) You call it “over-exaggeratng” ,,, and it’s somehow MY fault for not … , READING YOUR MIND!

                Bullies like you are so pathetic when called out.
                You may need an ego transplant.

                1. Since Elite Elite may STILL be confused/desperate … I most definitely proved him a liar on his claim “that doesn’t bring up abortion, and how horrible you think pro-lifers are.

                  Proved it here:
                  https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_6038149

                  The bully ALSO said that I “brought up” abortion … but … ONE MORE TIME … that’s the topic of Sullum’s column FOR THIS ENTIRE PAGE!!!! Anyone else confused that SULLUM “brought it up?

                  That’s TWO lies not included in his lame alibi above.
                  (One of the pro-lifer’s who’s a self-righteous authoritarian with an attitude, shouting people down foir assorted blasphemies ?)

                  1. I said you brought up abortion IN OTHER TOPICS. Obviously it makes sense to talk about abortion on this article. I’m saying, in OTHER ARTICLES I’ve seen you bring up abortion when neither the article nor any of the previous comments brought up that topic AT ALL. How many times must I repeat myself on that?!

                    Also, since you want me to reply to your Jefferson comment, here’s my reply. That’s an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy, which means it’s an illegitimate point. So, go ahead and make another reply saying what a liar I am for over exaggerating and using hyperbole to make what was just a simple unimportant point, and declare yourself the “winner.” I’m done talking in circles with you.

                    1. Blowhards always self-destruct with even bigger lies!!!.

                      Obviously it makes sense to talk about abortion on this article.

                      THEN WHAT DID YOU BITCH ABOUT?

                      I’m saying, in OTHER ARTICLES I’ve seen you bring up abortion when neither the article nor any of the previous comments brought up that topic AT ALL. How many times must I repeat myself on that?!

                      This is the first time, liar, And you’ve already admitted over-exaggerating.

                      https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_6038541

                      Even more pathetic:

                      Do we believe Jefferson and the founders or some manipulative televangelists and their cult?

                      That’s an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy, which means it’s an illegitimate point.

                      (OMG) It’s a question! Can you be any more pathetic?

                      In THIS version, you attack what I say HERE, solely because I’ve commented ELSEWHERE. (gasp)

                      make another reply saying what a liar

                      (lol) The PROOF is HERE, and here:

                      https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_6038149

                      This is like kicking a cripple. And STILL no justification for THIS lie “how horrible you think pro-lifers are.”

                      (My tone and boldface in response to ongoing lies and aggression.)
                      Will it continue stalking me?

  2. “the abortion debate largely comes down to the question of whether and when a fetus counts as a person.”
    Pro-choice here.

    I don’t care whether a fetus is a “person” or not. Not a single one of my arguments for why abortion should remain legal hinges on “personhood”.

    That said, I don’t think pro-lifers actually care either. As demonstrated, if they were serious about them being “persons” with full consitutional rights, then yeah, women who get abortions would be as bad as people that hire a hitman. Further, all miscarriages would need to be investigated to see if it was negligent homicide. Pro-life folks pretend they don’t want to go that far. As long as they continue to pretend as such, I have no reason to believe they’re serious about the assumptions those conclusions draw from.

    1. “all miscarriages would need to be investigated to see if it was negligent homicide”

      That doesn’t follow. Most human deaths are not investigated to see if they were negligent homicide. Only when there are suspicious or unusual circumstances are they investigated. Miscarriage is, in itself, neither suspicious nor unusual.

    2. I’ve never understood those who claim a fetus attains “personhood” — with full individual rights — at conception, but deny that the woman also had those rights from conception.

      If a woman loses her God-given rights upon pregnancy, for how long are her rights suspended? Are there any other circumstances where our rights are suspended, for how long and on what authority?

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  4. I’ll start taking the Pro-Life people seriously when they start advocated for over the counter birth-control with no age restrictions. And I’ll start taking the Pro-Choice people seriously when they stop trying to make me pay for their shitty decisions.

  5. Again, if I could press a button to punish women who kill their unborn children, I’d press it.

    But not only is there no such button, there is simply no political purchase for my position. None.

    So I have a couple choices:

    I could say, “well, Lord forbid that I compromise myself by associating with those *impure* prolifers who *merely* believe that people who kill babies for a living belong in prison. As an expression of how pure and consistent I am, I could simply be neutral in the current political debate between putting professional baby-killers in prison and protecting and promoting their business. Since this question is so compromised by icky *politics,* I’ll just pretend the issue doesn’t matter.”

    Or…I could say, “well, at least putting professional baby-killers behind bars will same some lives, and maybe, just maybe, the overwhelming preponderance of the mainstream prolife movement, who have been in the trenches before I was conceived, know a thing or two about fighting for the right to life, and I should learn from them rather than trying to instruct them on how to be purer.”

    1. Not to mention the various prolife ministries reaching out to pregnant and post-abortive women, etc.

      Yeah, all of it hypocritical and evil.

      1. The bottom line is that there are people walking around today who, but for the efforts of the prolifers, would be dead.

        You yourselves may even know such people. I’ve met one.

        So this goes beyond clever witticisms and logic-chopping and concern-trolling.

        To paraphrase Rebecca Kiessling, it’s about looking someone who was saved by prolife laws in the eye and saying, “if I’d had my way, you’d be dead by now.”

        1. How does that have anything to do with equal, unalienable and/or God-given rights?
          How is that any justification to deny a woman (or a fetal child) their individual rights?

        2. To paraphrase Rebecca Kiessling, it’s about looking someone who was saved by prolife laws in the eye and saying, “if I’d had my way, you’d be dead by now.”

          That’s bat-shit crazy on MANY levels.
          1) Only the mother has “her way” on this.
          2) And she’s already chosen to give birth,

          So this goes beyond clever witticisms and logic-chopping and concern-trolling.

          Like what you just cited?

      2. Not to mention the various prolife ministries reaching out to pregnant and post-abortive women, etc.
        Yeah, all of it hypocritical and evil.

        Persuasion is NEVER evil.
        Using the force of government to impose one’s views by force, in violation of fundamental rights, is ALWAYS evil.

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