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Trump and the new pro-life strategy: Pragmatism over purity

Key Points:

  • Donald Trump’s recent statement on abortion has generated significant debate among evangelical leaders, emphasizing political realism over stricter ideological consistency.
  • Criticisms from evangelical figures like J.D. Greear and Russell Moore contrast with others who note Trump’s realistic approach to pro-life politics at the state level post-Roe.
  • The article examines the practical political implications of Trump’s stance on abortion, suggesting that his pragmatic approach might be more effective given the current political landscape.

There is an ongoing debate within evangelical circles regarding Donald Trump’s recent statement on abortion. It highlights a divide between evangelical leaders who criticize Trump for his lack of ideological purity and those who defend his pragmatic approach to pro-life issues, especially after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Trump’s strategy focuses on empowering states to set their own abortion policies, which he believes is a more viable route given the current political dynamics. The critique from figures like J.D. Greear and Russell Moore, who accuse Trump of betraying the pro-life movement, contrasts with others who view his approach as a realistic adaptation to the shifting political environment post-Roe.

American Reformer reports:

Some have pledged not to vote for Trump in the fall—even after they did both in 2016 and 2020. He’s been likened to Stephen A. Douglas, the author of the much-maligned Kansas-Nebraska Act who sacrificed principle for a seeming prudential compromise on slavery in antebellum America. Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action, wrote that “President Trump is not a pro-life candidate” and “supports killing some preborn children.” (If she includes the three exceptions Trump has always stood for—rape, incest, and the life of the mother—then all the other Republican hopefuls in the 2024 GOP primary would fail this test too.)

There are certainly legitimate gripes one can have with Trump’s abortion announcement. His enthusiastic endorsement of IVF, while politically understandable, is misguided. Also, his elevation of the will of the people of the states to something approaching a principle rather than a means is questionable rhetorical framing, though his ultimate wish for “the states to do the right thing” demonstrates that his paeans to federalism should not be confused with relativism.

Interestingly, Trump’s statement is not that much of a departure from what he’s previously said about abortion since 2015. He has supported including three exceptions in abortion laws that virtually all national Republicans have agreed on for decades. Furthermore, his public pitch for overturning Roe mostly relied on two arguments: it ran roughshod over the states, and most conservative and even some liberal legal scholars thought it was a poorly argued decision. As Center for Baptist Leadership Executive Director William Wolfe pointed out, Trump’s positions as a whole are perhaps even somewhat better than the abortion policies the compassionate conservative George W. Bush ran on during his 2000 campaign.

Read the full article.

Themes Pros Cons
Political Realism Trump’s state-focused approach could adapt effectively to current legal and political landscapes. May be seen as sacrificing moral principles for political expediency.
Evangelical Leadership Encourages practical engagement with politics to achieve pro-life goals. Risks deepening divisions within the evangelical community.
Pro-life Strategy This could lead to more achievable pro-life victories at the state level. Critics argue it undermines a unified national stance on the sanctity of life.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How should evangelical leaders balance the need for political pragmatism with their moral convictions?
  2. What are the long-term implications of focusing pro-life efforts at the state level rather than the national level?
  3. Does criticizing a political leader’s stance on abortion help or hinder the pro-life cause in the broader cultural context?

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