The antiabortion movement reluctantly embraced Donald Trump. Now, activists say they plan to make sure that uneasy partnership pays dividends.
Groups taking some credit for Trump’s presidential upset on Wednesday pledged to hold him to his promise to promote an antiabortion agenda. They announced immediate plans to revive in Congress several bills, including one targeting Planned Parenthood, and to press Trump to appoint a Supreme Court justice who opposes Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationally.
“Today, preborn babies got a reprieve,” Mark Harrington, director of Created Equal, a group that campaigned for Trump in 18 cities in battleground states and in some places flew airplane-toted banners depicting pictures of aborted fetuses, said in a statement.
“Now, we must hold our new president-elect accountable for his promises to defund Planned Parenthood,” as well as pass a ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and appoint antiabortion judges, he said.
The surge of optimism marks a turnaround from just this summer, when antiabortion groups had assumed a defensive position in the wake of a Supreme Court decision striking down clinic regulations in Texas. The decision led Alabama and Wisconsin to roll back restrictions in those states. Activists also faced the prospect of a victory by Hillary Clinton, who embraced abortion rights like no previous major-party nominee for president.
Now, Republicans are poised to control Congress, occupy the White House and choose and approve quickly the next Supreme Court justice. And while restricting abortion may not be at the top of Trump’s priority list, it is paramount for many of the activists who helped propel him to the White House.
Trump’s record on abortion is murky at best. He previously supported the right to an abortion and left conservatives aghast by repeatedly praising the “good things” done by Planned Parenthood.
But the antiabortion movement rallied around Trump after an about-face on the issue. At one point during the campaign, he went so far as to say women ought to be punished for terminating a pregnancy. He backtracked after critics and some antiabortion groups condemned the remarks.
He tried to reassure skeptical social conservatives about the sincerity of his transformation by choosing as his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), who has a long record opposing abortion rights.
Then, this fall, Trump sealed the deal by issuing a letter to antiabortion leaders. In addition to pledging to cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood and support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, he promised to make permanent the Hyde Amendment. That measure bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions; right now, it must be renewed annually by Congress.
Abortion rights groups struck a defiant tone Wednesday, calling Trump’s abortion policies extreme even among his supporters.
“We will fight to make sure that Planned Parenthood health center doors stay open, and that people in this country can get access to basic reproductive health care, no matter their Zip code, income, sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, or country of origin,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement. “The majority of Americans, including Trump’s own voters, support access to health care at Planned Parenthood and want abortion to stay legal and safe.”