Trump Gaslights On Abortion

[ Posted Monday, May 6th, 2024 – 16:44 UTC ]

It's always impossible to know, when Donald Trump settles on a new worldview, whether he actually believes it is reality, or whether he's fully conscious of gaslighting everyone with a made-up story that just conveniently always makes himself out to be the good guy (who never does anything wrong). Gaslighting seems the obvious answer, but Trump seems to buy into his own fantasies so deeply (see: the 2020 election results) that you have to wonder how attached he is to the reality that everyone else lives in. But we'll just leave any diagnosis to trained mental health professionals, because whether he actually believes his gaslighting or not is kind of irrelevant to the rest of us. And in the past few months, Trump has developed a new mental construct where the issue of abortion is, as he put it in a recent interview, "not that big of an issue" any more.

Obviously, Trump would prefer abortion to be "not that big of an issue," because unlike many hardcore anti-abortion Republicans, Trump has realized that it can be a real loser at the ballot box. After seeing Draconian abortion laws voted down directly by voters and seeing extremist forced-birth Republican candidates lose otherwise-winnable elections, Trump has been trying to get the Republican Party to somehow just sort of move on from the entire thing.

This, of course, is an impossibility. Because the states now set abortion law, it has in fact made the issue 50 times more complicated, politically-speaking. But to Trump, since he wants to be president of the federal government, the fact that he's settled on a laissez-faire "whatever the states want to do is fine with me" attitude means (to him) that everyone should just stop talking about it now.

From that recent interview (as reported by HuffPost), here is what Trump has been saying of late:

"I think the abortion issue should be largely taken off the table because the individual states are doing what they're doing," the GOP presidential hopeful said.

"It's really not that big of an issue," he added.

. . .

"I say, what the people decide, and whatever it is, it's within the state and what the people decide, and it's working out," he said. "For many, many years, people have said we've got to bring this back to the states to decide, and that's now working."

. . .

"You have to understand, every legal scholar from all over the country, all over the world, they said, 'You have to get abortion out of the federal government, you have to take it away from the federal government, give it to the states,' and now that's what we've been able to do," he boasted of throwing out Roe v. Wade. "We've given it to the states, and some states have already decided, and people are satisfied with it."

Trump has clearly decided that none of this is (or should be) his problem -- either as a candidate or if he gets elected president again -- and therefore everyone's happy with things as they stand (since he is). None of which is true, of course.

Part of this fantasy is that, before Roe was overturned, "everyone" wanted to send it back to the states. Trump's used some form of this line for months at his rallies and in interviews. As far as he is concerned, both liberals and conservatives wanted to get rid of Roe and instead have all the states decide abortion law. As HuffPost pointed out, though:

Trump has made this claim before, and legal scholars have shot it down as "utter nonsense" and "patently absurd."

"Most legal scholars, like most Americans, didn't want Roe overturned," Mary Ziegler, a professor of law at the University of California, Davis, told last month. "We can name any number of professors who submitted briefs to [the Supreme Court] asking Roe not to be overturned."

But it fits better inside Trump's fantasy world to believe that (or, at least, have others believe it). In his version, he merely provided what everyone across the political spectrum was calling for, and then everyone agreed it was a wonderful thing, and they should all now thank him for granting their wish.

It also provides Trump a way to wash his hands of the issue entirely, which is the political stance he has taken for the 2024 election. Trump clearly thinks: "Everything's fine, I did what everyone wanted, and now it's not a problem anymore -- the states will decide, so maybe you should go ask them any further questions about the issue, not me."

Of course, this hands-off stance still allows Trump to weigh in with his opinion on each state, as he recently did on Arizona's revival of an 1864 abortion law that only had one exception in it (the life of the mother) and would have jailed doctors for up to five years. Trump thought that was too harsh and vaguely pushed the state government to fix it (which they actually did -- it was repealed last week).

In Trump's version of reality, everyone's happy with the results of overturning Roe. The states decide whatever they want to, and he doesn't care what any of that is, because he is done with the issue forever. He went into more detail on this in the recent interview he did with Time magazine, which shows he's basically just tired of getting asked about it all the time. When the interviewer asked whether he would sign a federal abortion ban (if a Republican Congress put one on his desk), his answer was (from the complete transcript of his interviews):

You don't need a federal ban. We just got out of the federal. You know, if you go back on Roe v. Wade, Roe v. Wade was all about -- it wasn't about abortion so much as bringing it back to the states. So the states would negotiate deals. Florida is going to be different from Georgia and Georgia is going to be different from other places. But that's what's happening now. It's very interesting. But remember this, every legal scholar for 53 years has said that issue is a state issue from a legal standpoint. And it's starting to work that way. And what's happened is people started getting into the fifteen weeks and the five weeks or the six weeks and they started getting into, you know, time periods. And they started all of a sudden deciding what abortion was going to be.

When asked directly whether he thought states should be able to "monitor women's pregnancies so they can know if they've gotten an abortion after the ban," Trump responded:

I think they might do that. Again, you'll have to speak to the individual states. Look, Roe v. Wade was all about bringing it back to the states. And that was a legal, as well as possibly in the hearts of some, in the minds of some, a moral decision. But it was largely a legal decision. Every legal scholar, Democrat, Republican, and other wanted that issue back at the states. You know, Roe v. Wade was always considered very bad law. Very bad. It was a very bad issue from a legal standpoint. People were amazed it lasted as long as it did.

This answer made headlines, since states intrusively monitoring pregnant women's medical records is such a frightening thing to even contemplate, but Trump is fine with states doing whatever they please on the issue. As far as he's concerned, his involvement with it began and ended with putting three ultra-conservative justices on the Supreme Court. They then did what "every legal scholar, Democrat, Republican, and other" wanted them to do, so everything's just peachy and why would anyone even ask him his opinion now?

He drove this home in his answer to whether he was "comfortable" with women being prosecuted for having abortions:

The states are going to say. It's irrelevant whether I'm comfortable or not. It's totally irrelevant, because the states are going to make those decisions. And by the way, Texas is going to be different than Ohio. And Ohio is going to be different than Michigan. I see what's happening.

In Trump's mind, abortion is now a settled issue, at least as far as he is concerned about any of it. Who cares what the states do? Doesn't affect him in the slightest, and he doesn't even have an opinion on any of it (which is not exactly true -- he cares about abortion possibly being a losing issue for Republicans at the ballot box, but that is the full extent of his concern).

It should also be noted that this is just one of the ways Trump has been gaslighting the abortion issue. From the HuffPost article, here was his answer to the question of in-vitro fertilization -- which is threatened by the Republican Party's efforts to pass "personhood" bills that unequivocally state that life begins at conception. In Trump's mind, however, it isn't the Republican laws that are a problem, it is some undefined "they" who are threatening something that Republicans are actually the champions of:

We want to help the women because they were going to end fertilization, which is where, when the I.V.F., where women go to the clinics and they get help in having a baby, and that's a good thing, not a bad thing. And we're for it a 100 percent. They tried to say that they weren't for it. They actually weren't for it and aren't for it as much as us, but women see that.

As usual, this is a mix of meaningless "word salad" gibberish and a profound misunderstanding of reality. Or gaslighting -- take your pick.

Trump has decided how he is going to handle the politics of abortion in the post-Roe world. In a word, he's just not going to deal with any of it, period. In his fantasyland, all legal scholars of every political persuasion all agreed that Roe was horrible and were clamoring for the Supreme Court to return the issue to the states. Trump accomplished this by packing the court, and now he is done with the issue forever. Everyone everywhere agrees that this is a wonderful thing, and each state can now freely decide what abortion laws it wants -- no matter what those laws actually say or do. It doesn't affect Trump, so he doesn't care. If you don't like what your state did, then maybe you can elect different politicians or just move -- but don't come whining to Trump about any of it, because this is the world everyone wanted to live in.

This is the position Trump has now taken, and he's never going to be shaken from it (at least not for the rest of this year's campaign). Everyone wanted to get rid of Roe, everything is wonderful now that it is gone, and everyone is happy. Whether Trump actually believes any of this or not -- whether he is actually conscious of gaslighting everyone or whether he truly believes his deluded fantasy -- that is the only answer anyone is going to get from him from now on.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


2 Comments on “Trump Gaslights On Abortion”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Trump taking a tough, principled stance and sticking to it for six months? Yeah. Right.

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    This is the position Trump has now taken, and he's never going to be shaken from it (at least not for the rest of this year's campaign).

    Depends. Donald Trump is an opportunist who doesn't give two shits about life and will change his position on abortion as frequently as his own adult diapers.

    If Trump was informed he'd receive a Nobel Peace Prize for agreeing that Americans should possess the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions, he'd perform another "complete 180" and quickly endorse it. If Trump was further informed he'd receive $1,000 for every documented abortion in America, he'd run advertisements* for "Trump Medical Institution" (TMI) and perform the procedures for his own personal profit.

    *Nobody else will keep your data classified like TMI... so come on down to Florida because you can't spell RU-486 and misoprostol without T-RU-M-P.

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