In an interview with the New York Times Magazine published today, Donald Trump continued to revise his comment to MSNBC's Chris Matthews that there should be "some form of punishment" for women who have abortions.
Robert Draper writes:
Now he argued to me, rather unconvincingly, that he had been misinterpreted: 'I didn't mean punishment for women like prison. I'm saying women punish themselves. I didn't want people to think in terms of 'prison' punishment. And because of that I walked it back.'
Trump's so-called "walk-back" is actually a stroll through the rhetoric and actions of the far Right. If women are "punishing themselves," it is only because anti-abortion activists and Donald Trump want to stigmatize them for receiving a legal medical procedure.
One of the principal tactics of the anti-abortion movement is shaming women who are seeking out a safe and legal medical procedure. They stand at clinic doors harassing patients and set up "crisis pregnancy centers" to mislead women about abortion. States have passed laws forcing doctors to lie to patients, telling them abortion is linked to mental illness, despite research saying the opposite.
Perhaps Trump is just borrowing from the playbook of Operation Rescue's Troy Newman, who recently endorsed his candidacy. In a 2003 book, the radical anti-abortion activist with ties to terrorists, claimed women who receive abortions, their families and their doctors have "personal bloodguilt" for their actions, which in turn makes the entire United States "bloodguilty."
Trump's remarks also echoed those of Priests for Life's National Director Frank Pavone, who remarked in early April that the anti abortion movement does not aim to "imprison [women], we aim to liberate them from the shame and guilt and wounds abortion brings."
Trump's penchant of shaming women in public forums is no secret, and his personal treatment of women in professional and personal settings has been the subject of dozens of column inches and countless cable news segments. His most recent statement should be cause for even greater concern. Trump now wants to take his Twitter rants and make them a matter of national policy.
Draper's article points out that according to a senior campaign adviser, "Trump, a serial non-apologizer, initially saw nothing wrong with his remark and refused to walk it back." It was
only when every network chief executive and over 100 media outlets besieged the Trump campaign with requests for additional comment on how women should be punished for abortions did the Trump campaign turn to an ally: Chris Christie, whose tenure as the Republican governor of the blue state of New Jersey had given him experience placating both social conservatives and the moderate voters Trump hoped to attract in the general election.
It turns out, according to Draper, "A member of Christie's political team helped draft a statement that essentially repudiated Trump's earlier one."
What we've learned about Donald Trump's beliefs is that, before the media's outcry, he saw nothing wrong with women being jailed for having an abortion. Now, weeks after his campaign confronted a tsunami of pushback, his default position is to effectively shame women.