Yesterday, presidential front-runner Donald Trump was caught telling the truth about abortion restrictions. In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Trump spoke off the cuff about his “pro-life” position.
Matthews asked Trump to explain what the outcomes of making abortion illegal would be, and whether it would include some kind of punishment for seeking an abortion. First, Trump hedged, deflecting to comments about other Republicans, saying “Look, people in certain parts of the Republican Party, conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should.'”
Ignoring the ploy to pivot, Matthews asked, “How about you?”
Trump: “I would say it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?”
Matthews again pushed Trump to declare any policy position, any position at all, with his response: “I’m asking you,” to which Trump responded, “I am pro-life.”
Shifting tactics, Matthews asked Trump to explain how a ban would work. And this is where things get honest, and honestly terrifying. “Well,” Trump said, “you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places but we have to ban it.” Asked whether there should be punishments in place if abortion were banned in such a scenario, Trump said, “There has to be some form of punishment.” Seeking further clarification from the candidate, Matthews asked pointedly, “For the woman?” Trump replied, “Yeah.”
Whatever Republican leadership might say to try to distance themselves from Donald Trump’s candor, he has revealed the truth behind the “pro-life” curtain. Abortion bans are about punishing women. Period.
Since 1973, legislators at the state and federal level have been pushing the boundaries of exactly how far they can go towards banning abortion in practice, since they are prohibited from passing outright bans through legislation. From requiring doctors to provide medically inaccurate information about a link between abortion and breast cancer – which has been thoroughly debunked – to forcing people to undergo medically unnecessary sonograms and a detailed description of the fetus, these restrictions are meant to undermine, shame, and terrify people seeking abortions.
Trump was also candid about another aspect of abortion restrictions, which many of his colleagues in the GOP routinely deny. In the interview, he flippantly admitted that people might “go back to a position…where they would perhaps go to illegal places.” But for Trump, like the entire anti-choice movement and the lawmakers who espouse it, this doesn’t matter. “We have to ban it,” he said, in the same breath.
Though he has since come out with a statement clarifying that women would be the “victims” under an abortion ban, and that the punishment would be focused on physicians who provide illegal medical services, Trump can’t put this genie back in the bottle.