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Trump and the 15-Week Abortion Ban – Fact or Fearmongering?

Separating the spin from the substance of Trump's soundbites.

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

Donald Trump, the former president who hopes to become the next president, has teased an announcement on where he’ll stand regarding abortion if re-elected. He’s considering support for a 15-week ban, suggesting it could “bring the country together” on the issue. His opponents on the left, of course, have taken that as an excuse to attack him yet again, arguing that he’ll ban abortions if he’s allowed back into the White House.

“The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15, and I’m thinking in terms of that, and it’ll come out to something that’s very reasonable,” he said on a radio show last week. The Biden administration issued a statement shortly after from Amanda Zurawski, a woman who suffered an infection after Texas doctors initially refused to perform an abortion when she was 18 weeks pregnant. “Trump isn’t ‘signaling,’ he isn’t ‘suggesting,’ he isn’t ‘leaning toward’ anything – he is actively planning to ban abortions nationwide if he’s elected, inflicting the same cruelty and chaos I’ve experienced on the entire country,” she said from the presidential platform. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

Trump, Dictator for a Day?

Trump suggesting that he is weighing support for a 15-week abortion proposal does not equal a promise to enact a ban by presidential decree. Nor does it – or anything else, for that matter – suggest the president has the power to unilaterally do so. Yes, progressives did seem to take him seriously when he joked about being a dictator, even if only on day one. And, true, they are the ones who decry math as racist. But surely even one who has gone so far left as to come back around the other side can’t look at an equation as blatantly broken as Trump plus joke plus idea about abortions equals the new law of the land and think the math is sound.

Instead, it has more the ring of propaganda to it – similar to when the left-leaning Fourth Estate recently latched on to The Donald’s use of the word “bloodbath” to describe what’s happening in the US auto industry. “Tonight [March 16] Donald Trump said there would be a ‘bloodbath’ if he wasn’t elected and that if he lost there would be no more elections,” exclaimed the Biden campaign in a statement. Though graphic, the word “bloodbath” is a common expression that rarely means literal bloodshed. How Trump’s critics came up with a literal threat of massacre from his observation that Biden’s policies are steering the auto industry toward catastrophe is anyone’s guess.

Federal Abortion Law: Ban or Guarantee, It’s Fantasy

“It’s time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” states the 2021 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court ruling. If politicians want abortion regulated at the federal level – be it to guarantee access, ban it altogether, or something in between – they’ll need a law passed by both chambers of Congress and either signed by the president or enacted by a veto-proof majority. We’ve made it to the 118th Congress without it happening. As can be seen nearly every time the nation’s legislature meets to consider a controversial issue, that isn’t likely to change. There’s a good reason folks commonly refer to improbable and perhaps even nigh impossible things as requiring an act of Congress.

New banner Perpective 1Sure, the Supreme Court could rule on whether the Constitution requires some degree of prohibition – and the argument that the 14th Amendment does exactly that isn’t without merit. Prof. Robert P. George of Princeton University suggests as much, saying it extends “the equal protection of the laws” to “any person;” that by the time the amendment was ratified in 1868, the definition of “person” was legally settled to include the unborn; and that, in fact, three-quarters of the states had outlawed abortion on those grounds.

It took 50 years of protests and lawsuits to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling based on a far shakier interpretation of the same bit of text. For it to happen again so soon seems about as likely as Congress legislating either a ban or a protection – or that such a law would survive the inevitable legal challenge. An amendment to settle the issue constitutionally is even less likely.

Precisely three legal paths to a federal ban – or protection, for that matter – for abortion, and each of them a pipe dream. But what if that’s not what Trump means at all?

Another Perspective

Donald Trump must know all this and must understand that he won’t get a national abortion ban, not by executive order, legislation, constitutional amendment, or judicial ruling. Republicans know it. And, unless they’ve succumbed entirely to Trump Derangement Syndrome, Democrats know it as well, no matter how loudly they may suggest otherwise.

So what if that isn’t the 15-week abortion proposal the former president who hopes to reclaim the office is considering? Dobbs defended the right of state legislatures to rule locally on abortion. It’s entirely possible Trump hopes to rally supporters for state-level laws – but, in the process, get local lawmakers in more restrictive states to walk back the six-week and conception bans that have caused Republicans so much electoral grief since the Dobbs decision.

What if Trump, regardless of his actual beliefs on the issue, is just trying to save the GOP by settling on a compromise he – and many others – think will be palatable to the majority of voters? “To me, there seems to be a general consensus that 15 weeks isn’t necessarily terrible,” Shermichael Singleton, a Republican strategist, explained. Singleton suggests Trump is “maybe testing the waters on it.”

“It’s a bit nerve-wracking,” he continued, “because I don’t think Republicans have handled the messaging on this very well.” That is, perhaps, one point upon which both sides and everyone down the middle can agree: Republicans certainly have not handled the messaging on this very well.

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