Unlike George W. Bush—who signed into law a born-alive infant protection bill and a partial-birth abortion ban—Trump has not signed a single significant piece of pro-life legislation. But even Bush’s historic legislation merely nibbled at the edges of the abortion challenge. It’s exceedingly rare for babies to be born alive after botched abortions, and partial-birth abortion was barbaric but thankfully infrequent.
Yes, Republican presidents use the bully pulpit to advance the pro-life cause (and Trump is to be commended for speaking to the March for Life). And yes, Democratic presidents use the bully pulpit to hail “reproductive choice.” Remember when President Obama said that if his daughters made a mistake, he didn’t want them “punished with a baby”?
Regardless of the tweaks to the law, regardless of the bully pulpit, look back again at the numbers above. The abortion rate declines. The abortion ratio declines. They declined during pro-life and pro-choice presidencies. They declined when George W. Bush was president, and they declined when Barack Obama was president. If the decades-long trend holds, they’ll decline no matter who wins in November.
But astute readers will note I haven’t mentioned perhaps the president’s primary theoretical influence on abortion—judicial nominations. Have presidents (or the justices they’ve appointed) meaningfully moved the needle on abortion law since Roe? No, they have not. Let’s take a closer look.