Don't let Donald Trump's concern for unborn babies blind you to his real desire – to roll back women's rights

Pro-lifers only care about children when they’re in the womb, which is to say they don’t care about them at all

Sarah Wilson
Tuesday 12 February 2019 15:45 GMT
State of the Union: Trump asks Congress to end late term abortion

In America, late-term abortions are either illegal or only carried out in cases where a mother or baby’s life is at risk – and they are almost never performed after 24 weeks gestation. What’s more, only 1.4 per cent of American women have abortions after the 20th week, many of whom have had their hand forced by complex and often heartbreaking financial or medical circumstances.

These facts are all just a Google search away. Which begs the question why Donald Trump claimed just days ago that certain states in America have “taken up legislation that would expand access to abortion up until just moments before birth”.

Some take the view that Trump is simply ignorant or misinformed. I believe there is something far more sinister behind his hyperbole. After announcing last night that he’s called on congress to ban late-term abortions, it’s clear that Trump’s apparent concern for the lives of children is a smokescreen for rolling back the rights and freedoms of women.

Hypocrisy runs deep through the pro-life movement. It uses language like Trump’s, which relies heavily on emotive terms that paints abortion as “murder” and child abuse, yet rarely dedicates its energies towards the plight of thousands of children on the streets, in poverty, living with domestic violence or in care.

In the US, as in the UK, pro-lifers are more likely to be politically or religiously conservative, meaning that the same people opposing abortion often also oppose wider and cheaper access to contraception, comprehensive sexual health education and welfare provisions for struggling families. In other words, the policies of pro-lifers like Donald Trump only care about children when they’re in the womb – which is to say they don’t care about them at all.

Both Trump and his political allies are also championing policies that have seen children as young as seven detained, and even die, at the Mexican border. You’d be hard pressed to find any clearer evidence that efforts to restrict abortions are not about improving the lives of children, but rather about the freedom of women to make choices about their own bodies.

Anti-abortion propaganda splits women into two distinct groups: the evil murderess who has obtained an abortion or supports a woman’s right to seek one, and the morally righteous who oppose it. Frequently those from the latter category are women who changed their minds about termination, held up by anti-abortion groups as an example of how women can be “saved” from making a morally corrupt decision. Rather than treating women who seek abortions with compassion and respect, many pro-lifers instead harass them outside abortion clinics.

Once, those with views of this persuasion lived in the fringes of our society. Now, the US has a sitting vice president who vowed to “end abortion in our time” and a president who has echoed his sentiments. If Theresa May resigns from her post as prime minister, the UK could end up with Jacob Rees-Mogg succeeding her – a man who believes abortion is wrong even in cases of incest and rape.

On paper the legality of abortion is not under threat; some claim that fearful reactions to small changes in the law border on the hysterical. Anyone who’s read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale understands how even small changes spark a dangerous slippery slope, in which women’s rights are slowly undermined until little of their hard-won freedoms remain. It would be a grave error to let the emotive language of pro-lifers like Donald Trump take us sliding right down it.

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