Right now, even with restrictive abortion laws in certain states, abortion is still legal in the United States.
But during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump said that if abortion were abolished on a federal level, he would somehow punish women for illegally terminating their pregnancies. He also stressed that men who impregnate women should not be subject to punishment, “agreeing that men are not responsible for abortion decisions,” Think Progress wrote.
Of course Pro-Choice folks, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, pretty much lost it.
Ironically, even Republicans and Pro-Lifers bashed Trump’s statement’s saying he had gone too far.
“Mr. Trump’s comment today is completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”
Both Trump’s GOP opponents weighed in as well.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich told MSNBC, “Of course, women shouldn’t be punished for having an abortion,” while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Trump’s comments “demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention.”
But before we give the Conservative Right any props, Dem frontrunner Hillary Clinton pointed out that many of the anti-abortion laws that the GOP politicians believe in and have passed restricting women’s access to abortion, contraception and other forms of reproductive health are no different from what Trump said.
And others spoke that same truth:
But in true fashion, Trump backpedaled after getting roasted from the Left and the Right. Around 5pm Eastern time on Wednesday, he released a statement clarifying that it would be doctors that would get in trouble, not women, CNN reported.
“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” Trump said. He added, “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”
Now before you ask, “What does this have to do with Black women?” Trust: This has everything to do with us.
While abortion rates are at an all-time low in the U.S., Black women still have the highest rates in the nation. According to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, there were 47.7 abortions per 1,000 Black women compared to 9.8 abortions per 1,000 pregnancies among white women and 20.3 among Latinas.
And as I’ve said before, while abstinence may be one way to prevent unplanned pregnancy, these numbers also speak to the lack of prolonged and consistent access to birth control, spotty health care, men not using condoms and untrustworthy sex education in our nations schools, which, by the way also put us at risk for HIV infections and STDs. And if we want to bring these unplanned pregnancy rates down, this means we have to elect politicians on a local, state and federal level who will help bridge these gaps to access to health care, endorse comprehensive sex education and promote other reproductive health programs. But I don’t think Trump and company are proposing anything like that.
And if for any reason Roe v Wade, the SCOTUS case that legalized abortion, were to be overturned like Trump said, be very clear: This would be detrimental for women of color. See, restricting abortion access doesn’t reduce the number of abortions women get, a Guttamacher study found. It only increases the rate of women seeking unsafe abortions, which will essentially endanger more of our lives. And is that what we really want? More ways to lower the life expectancy of African-American women?
And yes, I recognize that Trump has backtracked. But given his history of flip-flopping, how do we know that if he actually becomes President and abortion is banned that he won’t criminalize women for getting the procedure? We don’t. But here’s what we do know: If he reverts to his original stance of throwing women in jail, this oppressive and sexist policy will most likely disproportionately impact African-American women, who are already six times more likely to be incarcerated than white women.
This just shouldn’t sit right with anyone, because in this country choosing when you want to become a mother on your own terms should never end in jail time. Not even in the same America Trump claims he wants to make “great again.”