The Donald Dossier: Finding My Religion
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Donald Trump’s move against Planned Parenthood is part of a pattern to keep his coalition together.
By Daniel Malloy
During a premature flirtation with the presidency in 1999, Donald Trump declared himself “very pro-choice” on Meet the Press, telling Tim Russert that he would not ban even late-term abortion. Nearly two decades later, he’s attacking abortion with the zeal of a convert. On Friday, his administration put in motion a plan to block taxpayer funds from family planning clinics that perform or refer women for abortions, a strike at Planned Parenthood.
Trump has already taken this step for U.S. funds overseas and given states the power to block federal money from such clinics domestically. And he could be one Supreme Court justice away from fulfilling a campaign pledge to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Trump didn’t go to Barbara Bush’s funeral, but he made time for Billy Graham’s.
Time and again, Trump has delivered for his Christian conservative backers. Many were in attendance on Monday to open the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem — another campaign promise fulfilled — and evangelical pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee delivered prayers at the ceremony. Trump didn’t go to Barbara Bush’s funeral, but he made time for Billy Graham’s.
It’s the kind of care and feeding that helps hold his coalition together, in the face of tawdry sex scandals, lies and unseemly financial dealings. (This week’s winner: a Chinese government-backed company building a theme park adjacent to Trump-branded properties in Indonesia, as the president declared he’d help Chinese telecom company ZTE.)
If we’re careening toward an impeachment case — it appears Robert Mueller will submit his findings to Congress rather than indict Trump, whatever the evidence — then the laws around Russian collusion and obstruction of justice matter less than the politics. To keep Republican lawmakers in line, Trump needs to hold onto the “I don’t like his tweets, but …” crowd, the softer Trumpians who make up a little less than half of his supporters. And many of them are evangelicals: Gallup found that 68 percent of highly religious white Protestants supported Trump in 2017.
Moves like Friday’s are made for them. If the regulation is implemented in the coming months, it will likely become harder for low-income women to get an abortion and damage Planned Parenthood, a bête noire of the Christian right. While Planned Parenthood and others cannot spend Title X family planning funds — about $260 million total this year — on abortion, the new strictures are designed to force clinics to choose between providing abortions and accepting federal funds for birth control and other women’s health care services. Planned Parenthood signaled Friday that it will resist, calling the move “draconian.”
Meanwhile, Jeanne Mancini, president of the anti-abortion March for Life, said in a statement: “The pro-life grassroots will be pleased to see President Trump deliver on yet another pro-life promise, and we look forward to continued progress in restoring a culture of life here in the United States.” In the minds of the activists, Trump’s 1999 abortion position and sundry other sins have long been washed away by results.