As the forty-seventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade has approached, at March for Life events across the country, Donald Trump has been praised for his pro-life policies. He’ll be rightly lauded for the many policies that his administration has undertaken. He’ll also be puffed up as “the most pro-life President in history.”
As Joe Carter at the Gospel Coalition has pointed out, “the claim is so subjective as to be meaningless.” Carter points out that the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have a record of action that could be considered equally pro-life. Carter says the claim is only helpful for “seeking to curry favor with the latest political regime.”
Still, if being pro-life were just a matter of executive order, judicial and executive branch appointments, and publicly advocating for the pro-life cause, Trump’s case is as strong as his predecessors.
Yet there’s one measure by which the President fails spectacularly, and that is building a culture of life. Abortion is not primarily a problem with the law. Abortion reflects a deep cultural, moral sickness — a willingness to destroy innocent human life in the name of convenience and selfish interests.
Many pro-lifers will point to women who obtain abortions for reasons of convenience. Yet, truth be told, the mothers aren’t the only parties involved. Each year, thousands of boyfriends and families push women into unwanted abortions to make their loved ones’ lives easier. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers see desperate women, and they see dollar signs. During the 2017-18 Fiscal Year, Planned Parenthood performed 332,757 abortions while making only 2,831 adoption referrals.
Our problem isn’t just that we have bad laws, but that our bad laws support a culture that views other human beings as disposable. This is seen in the growing movement in this country to also legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. New laws aren’t enough to turn back these forces: a change of heart and spirit in our culture will be required. We need to build a culture of life where every human being is respected and valued from conception to natural death. This value was at the core of pro-life values for decades.
It is with this value where President Trump falls short. The President’s overall philosophy of life and politics is about strength. His view of strength often is that of the bully. His praise of dictators and tyrannical regimes around the world bears that out. To Trump, the protestors who stood down tanks in Tiananmen Square weren’t strong. The Government of China that can’t withstand opposition is showing the power of strength. Journalists who risk their lives to expose Putin aren’t strong. Putin is strong for crushing the free press in Russia. Trump approving quoted Benito Mussolini, a dictator responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans, when he said, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”
Trump’s view of strength could be seen in his decision to pardon three war criminals, including one who ordered his men to kill three unarmed men in Afghanistan and tried to cover it up. The President’s actions have created a disincentive for the reporting of war crimes and encouraged those who would dishonor our country on the battlefield by committing them.
As a President, Trump is a lion who goes after a lot of lambs. From denigrating gold star parents to suggesting the beloved husband of a grieving widow is in Hell because she supported his impeachment, or mocking the physical appearance of women who accuse him of sexual misconduct. He treats anyone who is in his way with utter contempt, dehumanizing them as he puts the “bully” in the “bully pulpit.”
Trump’s opposition to abortion is not in line with his philosophy. His administration’s defense of the innocent is a politically necessary aberration. It is his end of a business transaction with conservatives, not his sincere conviction. What makes sense in the framework of his world view is the pro-abortion position Trump held before his run for President.
Many attempts to minimize Trump’s behavior by saying he occasionally writes “mean tweets” or says something terrible on Twitter. Some seek to make this into a virtue by declaring that Trump is a “street fighter.” These views show a lack of wisdom and a lack of understanding of what it takes to create a culture of life.
Trump’s cruelty rubs directly against the pro-life message. A society that is welcoming and accepting of people with downs syndrome, autism, and ADHD will be less likely to think physically disabled children should be aborted. That effort is harmed by President Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara recent mocking of Joe Biden’s stuttering.
The pro-life movement rightly goes after Margaret Sanger for the racially charged nature of Planned Parenthood and its ties to the eugenics movement. Yet few of us protested when President Trump objected to allowing immigrants to the United States from “$@&#hole countries.” How is his attitude different from Sanger’s in spirit? Sanger didn’t want America’s population of brown and black people to grow, viewing them as a drain on society. She pushed birth control in those communities to limit their populations. President Trump’s statement on people coming from the third world has the same thrust. I’m not sure how you can object to the racial contempt behind Sanger’s birth control thrust while being okay with the President’s racial contempt toward immigrants. From a messaging perspective, I’m also not sure why we would expect minorities to be enraged by Sanger’s behavior a hundred years ago and indifferent to Trump’s behavior within the last three years.
Some Trump supporters recognize this problem by asking us to ignore issues of “style” and instead focus only on the substance of the President’s policies. They tell us his policies are all that matters. They say we need to lower our expectations as the President is not a pastor. They further claim he is not a role model. What they ask is for us to live in the world as they would like it to be rather than the world as it is. The President is a role model. We don’t get to choose whether he is or not. It comes with the job, and he has a great deal of influence in setting the tone for the country.
The President didn’t start the culture of contempt, but he fuels it and makes it grow larger daily. The culture of contempt’s members are found on both the left and the right, but they all exalt themselves and mock and belittle those they loathe. It offers no quarter and has little room for decency. The culture of contempt is the antithesis of the idea of a culture of life and utterly incompatible with building one.
To solve the abortion issue, we need better laws. However, to achieve that, we need a change of heart as a culture. We need to respect the dignity of every human life. The irony of pro-life support for Trump is that, through his judicial appointments, he may create a situation where pro-life laws can be passed throughout the country. Still, because he feeds a toxic, selfish, and contemptuous culture that doesn’t value every human life, he may make it less likely that such laws get passed.