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Trump punts on abortion

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Donald Trump, who has totally not promised several women that he would pay for their abortions and then failed to do so, has just issued his long-awaited Statement on the issue, in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“My view is now that we have abortion where everyone wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land. In this case, the law of the state,” Trump said in a video posted to his Truth Social account.

“Many states will be different,” Trump continued. “Many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others, and that’s what they will be. At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.”

Trump had previously suggested he could support a 15-week federal ban with exceptions in the cases of incest, rape and when the life of the mother is in danger. However, his ultimate decision to punt the politically fraught issue to the states and not back a national ban was swiftly denounced by a major anti-abortion rights organization that said his position did not go far enough.

In Monday’s video, Trump said he was “proudly the person responsible” for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which he said took the issue “out of the federal hands and brought it into the hearts, minds, and vote of the people in each state.”

The former president did not indicate a number of weeks during a pregnancy at which he thought it would be appropriate to ban abortion but reiterated his support for exceptions. He previously publicly derided six-week state abortion bans as “terrible,” and acknowledged that the debate over abortion has plagued Republicans at the ballot box since Roe was overturned in 2022.

Trump told reporters last week he would be making a “statement” on abortion when pressed about Florida’s six-week abortion ban, which is set to become law after a state Supreme Court ruling.

In a statement following Trump’s announcement on Monday, Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said her organization was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s statement.

“Saying the issue is ‘back to the states’ cedes the national debate to the Democrats who are working relentlessly to enact legislation mandating abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. If successful, they will wipe out states’ rights,” she said.

Support for federalism as a general principle is usually phony, and no issue illustrates this better than abortion rights. Almost nobody supports the idea of abortion rights being decided on a state by state basis, because that’s an idea that makes absolutely no sense from either any utilitarian or deontological perspective on the issue.

Trump, it should be unnecessary to point out, has no moral principles of any kind, unless “what’s good for me is more important than any other consideration in the universe at all times and places” counts as a moral principle. So what’s he’s doing here is trying to pick the position that will help him the most, or hurt him the least, electorally speaking. How this is supposed to do so is unclear to me. The position beloved of reactionary centrists — a 15ish week national ban, with exceptions — would I imagine win some of the Ariana Grande vote, but this? Who is in favor of this besides Associate Justice I Like Beer?

The real salient point here is that Trump will of course sign any legislation a Republican Congress puts in front of him, and such a Congress will certainly pass a draconian national ban at the first opportunity. But I can’t see how this statement does anything but hurt him on the margin in regard to the issue, and the margin is where the election will be decided.

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