By Adrian Reimers, January 30, 2019
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, warns the pro-life movement of the dangers of “Trumpification.” Citing the presence of political figures, principally Republican ones including a video message from the president, at the recent March for Life, he warns that even if conservatives in the pro-life movement succeed in overturning Roe v. Wade, the movement risks alienating the hearts and minds of Americans because by identifying with a man like Donald Trump, it will have lost its soul.
This is nonsense. Gerson argues that even if abortion is an issue of social justice, so too are the care of women and children in poverty, the separation of families at the southern border, and human dignity at every stage of development. This is true. What is not true is that those demonstrating for the unborn do not care for these. In fact, many of those we saw marching in Washington do care in concrete ways for women in crisis pregnancies, children in poverty, prisoners on death row, migrants, and other victims of misfortune. To say otherwise is a simple, popular, albeit convenient slander.
And to be grateful for President Trump’s support for the cause of the unborn is not to endorse all his positions. Although, ironically, some of Trump’s own policies, such as tax reform measures that result in higher wages for all and a dramatic expansion of the child tax credit or bipartisan prison reform legislation—not to mention compromises on the status of illegal migrants in the United States in exchange for border wall funding—do not align with the stereotypes often heard from Trump critics.
Where I live (South Bend, Indiana) we have seen the birth and expansion of the Women’s Care Center, a non-profit organization that provides ultrasounds, free counseling, and support for women of every faith—or none—and of every race and economic level. Women’s Care Center has 28 locations in ten states. This organization—and other crisis pregnancy centers like it around the country—does not lobby or demonstrate. It simply and quietly serves women in need, and one effect of its services is that the demand for abortions dramatically decreases.
And this brings us to a second political consideration. When Women’s Care Center sought to open a new facility near the proposed location of a new abortion clinic in South Bend, the Democratic mayor—one who is now touted as a rising star in Democratic presidential politics—vetoed the rezoning application. His reason? He wanted to avoid risking violence and unruly demonstrations in the area. Considering the peace that surrounds such centers at other locations, this rationale is a real head-scratcher. But the rationale is irrelevant. The mayor is a Democrat with high ambitions. The Democratic Party has repeatedly and emphatically made it clear that there is no room for pro-life activists in their ranks. Even Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) faced a primary challenge from abortion supporters last year because the party will not tolerate any deviation from its pro-abortion position. They have made their voice abundantly clear at their national conventions and from the mouths of their principal candidates. Pro-life advocates are not welcome. The most they can expect within the party is uneasy tolerance.
If this is the case, for whom can we vote? Whether we like it or not—and we may not like it—all we have are Republicans. The Democratic Party has foregone the pro-life vote, and the Republicans (often half-heartedly) have filled the void. We may very well want to support the hopes of the “Dreamers,” but at the cost of killing out children? The marchers had barely returned from Washington when the New York State Legislature, now entirely in Democrat hands boisterously celebrated a singularly draconian withdrawal of all rights of the unborn. Having declared pro-lifers unwelcome in his great state, Governor Cuomo forcefully repudiated the hope of even a partial defense of the unborn.
Gerson warns that by identifying too closely with President Trump, the pro-life movement will lose the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen. He writes, “The pro-life movement needs to be, and be seen as, advocating the defense of the weak against the strong. Trumpism is the elevation of the strong against refugees, and against migrant children, and against minorities.” Gerson clearly is not paying attention. The March on Washington has raised the banner for forty-six years, gathering by the hundred of thousands in the nation’s capital—this is where the politicians are—to press their case. Sometimes a member of Congress or two will address the marchers. On occasion a sympathetic president will send a message. On other occasions the president will ignore the march completely. In every case the mainstream media will grant only minimal coverage to the event, even as crowds exceed a quarter of a million participants. Pro-life activists gathered in Washington long before the election of 2016. Even if some marchers wore MAGA hats—let’s keep in mind that many Americans DO like Trump—the march was not “Trumpified.” No more than in previous years does the March for Life take its direction and inspiration from the sitting president. “Trumpification” is a clever neologism, but it describes nothing.
Michael Gerson makes a serious mistake. He thinks that he knows what he is talking about, but he does not. It is almost certain that he did not go out to the Mall and interview the marchers, so many of them young, idealistic, and happy to advocate for the unborn. He has, apparently, no idea of what they do at home in their communities to stand up for the less fortunate. Like his colleagues at the Post, the New York Times, on the media networks, and more generally in our educational, journalistic, and entertainment elites, he sees the idealism and zeal of the pro-life movement in simplistic terms. These people, Hillary’s “deplorables” who are unwelcome in Cuomo’s New York, live in a different world than the elites.
They are sincere religious believers who care how God may judge their actions. They are horrified by Planned Parenthood, not because they are Republicans, but because the core of that organization’s business model is to perform abortions, taking care to preserve the fetal remains for sale to biolabs. They welcome the release of the film about Kermit Gosnell—a story that the elites steadfastly ignored until it was forced up them—because it tells the truth about abortion, a truth that is there to be known by anyone willing to pay attention. The March will never reach the hearts and minds of Gerson’s social circle, not because of Donald Trump, but because the passion of the pro-life movement is incomprehensible to the enlightened elites.
Adrian Reimers is an adjunct instructor at Holy Cross College. For seventeen years he taught philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He has written extensively on the thought of Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II) and is the author of Hell and the Mercy of God (CUA Press, 2017) and co-author (with Miguel Acosta) of Karol Wojtyla’s Personalist Philosophy (CUA Press, 2016).