Thursday Reads: Only One Presidential Candidate Understands The Full Significance of Reproductive RightsPosted: March 31, 2016
The political issue that is most on my mind today is the reactions of the candidates to remarks Donald Trump made on abortion in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews yesterday. You can read the full transcript at The Guardian. An excerpt:
MATTHEWS: If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under law. Should abortion be punished?
TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and Conservative Republicans would say, “yes, they should be punished.”
MATTHEWS: How about you?
TRUMP: I would say that it’s a very serious problem. And it’s a problem that we have to decide on. It’s very hard.
MATTHEWS: But you’re for banning it?
TRUMP: I’m going to say — well, wait. Are you going to say, put them in jail? Are you — is that the (inaudible) you’re talking about?
MATTHEWS: Well, no, I’m asking you because you say you want to ban it. What does that mean?
TRUMP: I would — I am against — I am pro-life, yes.
MATTHEWS: What is ban — how do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?
TRUMP: Well, you know, you will go back to a position like they had where people will perhaps go to illegal places
TRUMP: But you have to ban it
MATTHEWS: You banning, they go to somebody who flunked out of medical school….
Trump begins talking about the Catholic Church’s position, interrogating Matthews on whether he agrees (Matthews is a Catholic).
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment
MATTHEWS: For the woman
TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form
MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?
TRUMP: Let me just tell you — I don’t know. That I don’t know. That I don’t know.
MATTHEWS: Why not
TRUMP: I don’t know.
MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.
TRUMP: Because I don’t want to — I frankly, I do take positions on everything else. It’s a very complicated position.
MATTHEWS: But you say, one, that you’re pro-life meaning that you want to ban it
More efforts by Trump to deflect to the fact that Matthews is a Catholic.
MATTHEWS: I’m asking you, what should a woman face if she chooses to have an abortion?
TRUMP: I’m not going to do that.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
TRUMP: I’m not going to play that game.
TRUMP: You have…
MATTHEWS: You said you’re pro-life.
TRUMP: I am pro-life.
MATTHEWS: That means banning abortion
TRUMP: And so is the Catholic Church pro-life.
MATTHEWS: But they don’t control the — this isn’t Spain, the Church doesn’t control the government
TRUMP: What is the punishment under the Catholic Church? What is the…
MATTHEWS: Let me give something from the New Testament, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Don’t ask me about my religion.
TRUMP: No, no…
MATTHEWS: I’m asking you. You want to be president of the United States.
TRUMP: You told me that…
MATTHEWS: You tell me what the law should be.
TRUMP: I have — I have not determined…
MATTHEWS: Just tell me what the law should be. You say you’re pro-life.
TRUMP: I am pro-life.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean
TRUMP: With exceptions. I am pro-life.
I have not determined what the punishment would be.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
TRUMP: Because I haven’t determined it
MATTHEWS: When you decide to be pro-life, you should have thought of it. Because…
TRUMP: No, you could ask anybody who is pro-life…
MATTHEWS: OK, here’s the problem — here’s my problem with this, if you don’t have a punishment for abortion — I don’t believe in it, of course — people are going to find a way to have an abortion.
TRUMP: You don’t believe in what?
MATTHEWS: I don’t believe in punishing anybody for having an abortion
TRUMP: OK, fine. OK, (inaudible)/
MATTHEWS: Of course not. I think it’s a woman’s choice.
TRUMP: So you’re against the teachings of your Church?
MATTHEWS: I have a view — a moral view — but I believe we live in a free country, and I don’t want to live in a country so fascistic that it could stop a person from making that decision.
TRUMP: But then you are…
MATTHEWS: That would be so invasive.
TRUMP: I know but I’ve heard you speaking…
MATTHEWS: So determined of a society that I wouldn’t able — one we are familiar with. And Donald Trump, you wouldn’t be familiar with.
TRUMP: But I’ve heard you speaking so highly about your religion and your Church.
TRUMP: Your Church is very, very strongly as you know, pro-life.
MATTHEWS: I know.
TRUMP: What do you say to your Church?
MATTHEWS: I say, I accept your moral authority. In the United States, the people make the decision, the courts rule on what’s in the Constitution, and we live by that. That’s why I say.
TRUMP: Yes, but you don’t live by it because you don’t accept it. You can’t accept it. You can’t accept it. You can’t accept it.
MATTHEWS: Can we go back to matters of the law and running for president because matters of law, what I’m talking about, and this is the difficult situation you’ve placed yourself in.
By saying you’re pro-life, you mean you want to ban abortion. How do you ban abortion without some kind of sanction? Then you get in that very tricky question of a sanction, a fine on human life which you call murder?
TRUMP: It will have to be determined.
MATTHEWS: A fine, imprisonment for a young woman who finds herself pregnant?
TRUMP: It will have to be determined.
MATTHEWS: What about the guy that gets her pregnant? Is he responsible under the law for these abortions? Or is he not responsible for an abortion?
TRUMP: Well, it hasn’t — it hasn’t — different feelings, different people. I would say no.
MATTHEWS: Well, they’re usually involved.
I applaud Chris Matthews on forcing Trump to demonstrate some of the problems with banning abortion. Trump actually said that we would go back to the time when women had to get illegal abortions, and that they should be punished if they made that choice. But the men who were also involved in the creating unwanted or dangerous pregnancies and in making the decision to end those pregnancies should not be punished.
Matthews could have been talking to any “pro-life” candidate, and if he or she were pushed on the practical results of their policies they might be similarly confused. Because that might mean sending women to jail. As Matthews pointed out, the Church does not control the U.S. government, and candidates who think abortion is a crime should not make decisions about women’s bodies and their choices. These choices are complex and they should be private.
How did the Democratic candidates respond to Trump’s remarks?
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton pounced on Donald Trump’s comment Wednesday on MSNBC that abortion should be banned and women who receive one should should face “some form of punishment,” seeking to tie it the entire GOP field.
Hours later, Trump reversed his initial position — criticized as extreme by both supporters and opponents of abortion rights — saying only the doctors should be held liable.“The Republicans all line up together,” Clinton said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.“Now maybe they aren’t quite as open about it as Donald Trump was earlier today, but they all have the same position,” she said, noting anti-abortion positions taken by both John Kasich and Ted Cruz. “If you make abortion a crime — you make it illegal — then you make women and doctors criminals.”“Why is it, I ask myself, Republicans want limited government, except when it comes to women’s health?” she said.Many Trump’s critics have sought to paint him as hostile to women, and Clinton said she largely agreed with that assessment.
You can watch Clinton’s full interview with Anderson Cooper at the link. I couldn’t find a full interview with Sanders on this other than the one he did with Rachel Maddow. He apparently sent out a tweet calling Trump’s remarks shameful. This is what he told Maddow in a lengthy interview yesterday.
MADDOW: After, uh, the word spread that Donald Trump had made those remarks today about abortion, that a woman needs to be punished, uh, if she seeks an abortion and abortion should be banned, you said today that was shameful.
What is shameful about it?
SANDERS: Well, I think it is — shameful is probably understating that position. First of all, to me, and I think to most Americans, women have the right to control their own bodies and they have the right to make those personal decisions themselves.
But to punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension. I — I just — you know, one would say what is in Donald Trump’s mind except we’re tired of saying that?
I don’t know what world this person lives in. So obviously, from my perspective, and if elected president, I will do everybody that I can to allow women to make that choice and have access to clinics all over this country so that if they choose to have an abortion, they will be able to do so.
The idea of punishing a woman, that is just, you know, beyond comprehension.
Maddow tried to press Sanders, asking if Cruz may be even worse on the abortion issue than Trump.
Uh, look, they have nothing to say. All they can appeal is to a small number of people who feel very rabid, very rabid about a particular issue, whether it’s abortion or maybe whether it’s gay marriage. That is their constituency. They have nothing of substance.
You know, you mentioned a moment ago, Rachel, that the media is paying attention to Donald Trump.
No kidding. Once again, every stupid remark will be broadcast, you know, for the next five days.
But what is Donald Trump’s position on raising the minimum wage?
Well, he doesn’t think so.
What is Donald Trump’s position on wages in America?
Well, he said in a Republican debate he thinks wages are too high.
What’s Donald Trump’s position on taxes?
Well, he wants to give billionaire families like himself hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks.
What is Donald Trump’s position on climate change?
Oh, he thinks it’s a hoax perpetrated, shock of all shock, by the Chinese. You know, on and on it goes.
But because media is what media is today, any stupid, absurd remark made by Donald Trump becomes the story of the week. Maybe, just maybe, we might want to have a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America. Donald Trump will not look quite so interesting in that context.
MADDOW: Are you suggesting, though, that the media shouldn’t be focusing on his call to potentially jail women who have abortions? Because that’s another stupid —
SANDERS: I am saying that every day he comes up with another stupid remark, absurd remark, of course it should be mentioned. But so should Trump’s overall positions. How much talk do we hear about climate change, Rachel? And Trump? Any?
I heard that as exactly what Maddow suggested: To Sanders, the issue of women’s reproductive rights is just another “stupid” social issue–nowhere near as important as income inequality, increasing the minimum wage, and the other economic issues that Sanders focuses on.
And here is what Hillary Clinton told Rachel Maddow last night, from Politicus USA.
“What Donald Trump said today was outrageous and dangerous. And you know I am just constantly taken aback by the kinds of things that he advocates for. Maya Angelou said, ‘When someone show you who they are, believe them.’ And once again he has showed us who he is. The idea that he and all of the Republicans espouse that abortion should be illegal is one that is not embraced by the vast majority of Americans. And in fact as he pointed out, if it were illegal, then women and doctors would be criminals.”
“I think not only women, men, but all Americans need to understand that this kind of inflammatory, destructive rhetoric is on the outer edges of what is permitted under our Constitution, what we believe in, and people should reject it.”
“Women in particular must know that this right which we have guaranteed under the Constitution could be taken away, and that’s why the stakes in this election couldn’t be higher.”
Maddow explained that Trump walked it back and then wanted to punish doctors. Clinton made the point that women have the right to their own autonomy. Criminalizing doctors for helping women have medical authority over their own bodies doesn’t make this better.
Maddow said that she spoke with Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s 2016 primary opponent, and that Sanders was critical of Trump’s remark but he also thinks it’s another “Donald Trump stupid” remark that will be covered by the media ad nauseam as opposed to issues like taxes, climate change, minimum wage that might be more deserving of extended attention.
Maddow asked Clinton if she agreed, and Clinton said she doesn’t think the media is making too much of this, “No, absolutely not. I’ve been on the front lines of the fight to preserve a woman’s choice and ability to make these difficult decisions… I’ve been a leader in trying to make sure that our rights as women were not in any way eroded.”
“To think that this is an issue that is not deserving of reaction just demonstrates a lack of appreciation for how serious this is,” Clinton said. “This goes to the heart of who we are as women, what kinds of rights and choices we have, it certainly is as important as any economic issue because when it’s all stripped away so much of the Republican agenda is to turn the clock back on women.”
It is easy for even liberals and progressives to forget that without legal and safe abortion, women die. This is no small issue. This is one of the issues of 2016. It is economic, it is about personal freedom, it is a matter of life and death. Hillary Clinton punches back even when others will not. She sees this issue for what it is.
This is why we need a woman POTUS. This is why we need Hillary. These interviews by Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow represent the first time anyone at a debate or “town hall” has seriously asked candidates to talk about women’s reproductive rights.
Donald Trump showed us why putting a Republican in the White House in 2016 would be dangerous for women.
Bernie Sanders showed us that he “supports” abortion rights, but doesn’t think this issue rises to the importance of his rants on economic issues like income inequality, Wall Street corruption, and the minimum wage. He clearly doesn’t understand that abortion and birth control are also important economic issues.
Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate who understands the important of these so-called “women’s issues.” She is the only one who will speak for women and girls in a serious way if she is elected to the presidency.
What do you think? Please discuss this post or any other topic you wish in the comment thread, and have a terrific Thursday.