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Republicans weren’t always pro-life – but as Donald Trump has shown, you now have to act that way to get ahead

The Republican frontrunner has sparked outcry with his latest comments

Jon Obrien
Washington DC
Thursday 31 March 2016 15:38 BST
Donald Trump and Chris Matthews during the MSNBC Donald Trump Town Hall on Wednesday, March 30
Donald Trump and Chris Matthews during the MSNBC Donald Trump Town Hall on Wednesday, March 30 (MSNBC via Getty Images)

From the beginning of his candidacy, Donald Trump has bragged that he is a man who thinks outside of the narrow confines of the Republican box. He claims to challenge orthodoxy while killing the sacred cows of the party platform.

It’s incredibly curious, then, that when it comes to a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy safely, Donald Trump lines up with every single Republican candidate and throws women under the bus. During the taping of a town hall for MSNBC, Trump said that women should be punished for having an abortion and then backpedaled once both sides of the abortion debate were outraged by his comments.

Why would this businessman, who once espoused prochoice beliefs, have had a “Road to Damascus” experience in the last few years? He now appears to entertain the idea that the United States should adopt the same sort of medieval witch hunt of pregnant women that happens in places like El Salvador, where abortion is criminalised. Under these despicable laws women who are merely suspected of having an abortion—even those who have miscarried—are thrown in prison for 15 years.

Mr Trump later said he supported the same abortion 'exceptions' as Ronald Reagan
Mr Trump later said he supported the same abortion 'exceptions' as Ronald Reagan (MSNBC)

To answer the question of why Donald is ultimately so “lamestream” when it comes to women’s health, one has to go back to the early 70s and look at how the Republican Party platform was hijacked. Once upon a time in the GOP, there were many politicians who supported a broad range of reproductive healthcare options, including abortion.

Gerald and Betty Ford were famously prochoice. Ronald Reagan was once prochoice. George HW Bush was known as “Rubbers” for his support of international family planning. Then along came the Moral Majority, which opened the doors to the Christian Coalition and groups like the Family Research Council.

Forty years ago, the Moral Majority wanted to build a strong election base that could be mobilized to hold sway within the Republican Party. But it had a problem: the evangelicals were more interested in the next life when they met God, rather than getting hot and bothered about the ballot box in this temporal world. Using the same political model that the conservative Religious Right is using today, the Moral Majority generated panic that children were being taught perverted ideas in sex education at school and ultimately used abortion to mobilize the evangelical vote.

Taking over school boards at local and district levels, the evangelical politicians rose through the ranks of the Republican Party and eventually took over the party platform. These were the same tactics used during Prohibition by the temperance movement, which preyed on the fears of the conservative Protestant Scottish contingent in the United States by using stereotypes of drunken Irish and Polish to galvanize the vote against them.

Today, the Republican Party claims it wants to keep government small and out of your business—so it’s ironic that Republicans invite the government into everyone’s private decision-making. Every one of the Republican candidates has bent the knee and professed hostility to women having the right to choose.

In the end, Donald J Trump, the unorthodox candidate, is no different than any other Republican establishment candidate.

Jon O’Brien is President of Catholics for Choice

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