Charles Cooke calls this an ideological Turing test, i.e. a question whose answer reveals how plausible it is that Trump really is who he claims to be. The standard answer from nearly all serious pro-lifers is that it’s the abortionist, not his patient, who should be sanctioned if and when abortion is banned. The March of Life explains why:
“Mr. Trump’s comment today is completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”
Ted Cruz, when he’s inevitably asked about this now, will give some variation of that same response. Trump, whom his conservative critics suspect of being an opportunist on abortion rather than committed to the cause, went a different route. You can almost see the wheels turning in his head here: He knows, as a political matter, that he can’t let Cruz get to his right on abortion. Republicans will let him slide on a lot — a lot — but if he gives them reason to think he’s BSing them on an issue at the very core of social conservatism, it could give Cruz the break he needs to take off. And so, when he gets the question from Matthews about what to do with women who insist on having abortions in a hypothetical future where the practice is banned, he goes with his gut — and his gut is “stay to the right.” So … sure, let’s punish women for abortion. This is the message the party’s carrying into the general election against the first woman major-party nominee, huh? By a guy who’s already having major problems polling among women, no less.
It’s easy to understand how an amateur would stumble into this answer, writes Matt Lewis, but why would you want to nominate an amateur?
In truth, like the notion that there should be exceptions for rape and incest, the notion that only the abortion doctor (not the woman having the abortion) should face penalties, is inconsistent with the notion that “abortion is murder.”
Yet these political compromises are necessary in order to cobble together a palatable and defensible (if admittedly inconsistent) public policy position that might someday actually be able to win the argument in mainstream America.
Part of the goal is to remove the ability for pro-choicers to demagogue the issue by scaring vulnerable women. Now, thanks to Trump, that’s back on the table.
Trump’s already trying to walk it back even though the townhall with Matthews from which this was clipped hasn’t aired yet:
— Sarah McCammon📻 (@sarahmccammon) March 30, 2016
Hillary’s already attacking him over it. So is Team Cruz, as you’ll see in the second clip below. Trump can run from it but it’s on tape and every down-ballot Republican will wear it now if he’s the nominee. And the best part, as one Twitter pal said, is that Trump will eventually (“eventually” as in “probably within the next few hours”) deny that he ever said it to begin with. Still think this is all part of a master strategy or could it be that he really is winging it?
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) March 30, 2016
Update: “My position has not changed,” he says, even though this statement means it’s changed within the span of about an hour. And so the gaslighting of America continues.
TRUMP FLIP-FLOPS pic.twitter.com/CvO5v77Nm5
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 30, 2016