Last week Donald Trump issued a signed list of pro-life commitments:
- Nominating pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Signing into law 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 re-allocating 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.
These pledges are the latest in a long string of pro-life efforts by the Trump campaign, including the appointment of an advisory council of Christian leaders, a solid pro-life VP pick in Mike Pence, the hiring of pro-life operative Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager, and finally the announcement of a new campaign arm dedicated exclusively to a pro-life ground game and run by pro-life political action committee president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
But in the past, Donald Trump has plainly stated he was just as “totally pro-choice” as one would expect a New York-based entertainer and pop-culture figure to be. That’s one major reason why I (and Catholic Vote) vigorously opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy against far more reliably pro-life candidates during the primary.
Understandably, some are still skeptical of Trump’s “conversion” on this important issue. I sympathize, but it is of course impossible to know for certain whether Trump himself has had a change of heart. Here are three things we do know:
- A number of outstanding pro-life leaders have resisted Trump’s pro-choice leanings with public statements and political pressure.
- Those pro-life leaders succeeded in pushing the Trump campaign to be far more pro-life than most of us ever dared to hope.
- Many of those same pro-life leaders are now intimately involved in running the Trump campaign, and their influence shows.
Pastors Talk Back
In June the Trump campaign created an advisory council of Evangelical Christian leaders, most of whom are staunchly pro-life. One member of that council is James Robison (incidentally a cofounder of The Stream, where I am a columnist).
After joining the advisory council, Robison reported that its relationship with Mr. Trump was not a “meaningless photo opp.” Robison himself has told Trump “bluntly and forcefully about where I’m convinced he needs to make essential changes in his approach and rhetoric while gaining the wisdom that comes from above to become the effective leader necessary to correct our nation’s dangerous course.”
When Mr. Trump “boldly” declared in a meeting, “I want to make America great again,” Robison writes, “I responded personally and forcefully to him, ‘Only God and “We the people” can make America great again!’” It is reassuring to hear that the Trump campaign meets regularly with men like Robison, who are far from blind “Trumpers.”
Kellyanne Conway: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Make ‘Em Join You
As I wrote here at CatholicVote:
During the Republican primary, Conway actually worked to defeat the shifty Trump and ensure the nomination of the solidly pro-life Texas Senator Ted Cruz. …Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser remarked, “I have known and trusted Kellyanne Conway my entire professional life….”
Since joining the campaign, Conway has proven herself adept at using quick wit and verbal jujitsu to draw public attention to the evil of abortion. Recently an interviewer suggested to Conway that the Trump campaign hadn’t done enough to “disavow” David Duke, citing Mike Pence’s failure to call him “deplorable.” Without missing a beat, Conway replied, “Will Hillary Clinton disavow–I mean, does she think Kermit Gosnell was deplorable, who was killing black babies in Philadelphia?”
Marjorie Dannenfelser: A Leader, Not a Follower
Marjorie Dannenfelser, who chairs the Trump Campaign’s new Pro-Life Coalition, is president of the pro-life PAC Susan B. Anthony List. Dannenfelser has been an overt critic of Trump’s forays into the pro-life cause, and played an active role in pushing the campaign to get serious about abortion.
In January, Dannenfelser and a number of other leading pro-life women issued a bold statement against Donald Trump’s “unacceptable” candidacy, in which they cited precisely his lack of credibility on the pro-life issue:
America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women. We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either. Therefore we urge our fellow citizens to support an alternative candidate.
In late March, Dannenfelser spoke out again, this time in response to comments Trump made in favor of “punishments” for women who procure abortions.
“As a convert to the pro-life movement, Mr. Trump sees the reality of the horror of abortion – the destruction of an innocent human life – which is legal in our country up until the moment of birth,” she wrote. “But let us be clear: punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another.”
Here Dannenfelser’s tone is that of a patient but authoritative teacher, addressing Trump not as undisputed ruler but as a pupil in need of guidance to avoid hurting himself and others. It is gratifying that such an indomitable pro-life force as Dannenfelser is now an official member of the Trump campaign.
Neither Despair nor Naïve Hope
This has been a rough election year for serious pro-life voters, and many of us are tempted to bitterly reject the little hope that’s left to us after the primaries.
But allow me to suggest an option for pro-life voters who still hesitate to support Trump: Support his campaign instead. Vote Pence. Vote Conway. Vote Dannenfelser.