Source: CNN

Former President Donald Trump wants to win the White House back. And that means softening the Republican Party’s stated position on abortion rights — even if he and the GOP have no intention of actually following through. Trump’s obvious posturing toward the center was evident on Monday, when the Republican National Committee’s platform committee approved a draft that included language apparently moderating the GOP stance on abortion and same-sex marriage

Trump seems to realize that the issue of abortion and other reproductive rights remains his and his party’s weakest, thanks only to their own incredible overreach. Trump appointed three conservative justices to the US Supreme Court, all of whom helped to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the national right to abortion in the US. That decision has proven disastrous on many levels especially for women in Republican-run states who continue to suffer the consequences.

A strong majority of Americans support abortion rights and many voters are livid and motivated.

This is a big problem for Republicans, although much of the anti-abortion movement remains in denial and has been pushing for more bans and tighter restrictions. The result is that now America finds itself with abortions banned in more than a dozen states, and many of these  states have fought court battles to maintain strict laws or enact new ones; two were even decided (or really punted) by the Supreme Court this year. The GOP seems to want it both ways: strict and wildly unpopular abortion bans that they get credit for from the base, but no political price for unpopular policies that much of the rest of the country rejects.

The 2024 Republican platform has not yet been published, and accounts suggest it is largely shaping up to be a document that does little more than pledge allegiance to Trump and his MAGA politics. That means a lot of vague hand-waving: Trump has never been a politician who is heavy on the policy specifics, or who even mentions more than a few issues (crime, the economy and immigration are his go-tos). He boasts about his role in overturning Roe, but doesn’t want to take responsibility for the blowback. And so, his strategy seems to be to pen a platform that backs off of abortion extremism.

The draft platform suggests that abortion should be an issue left to the states, does not make mention of a national abortion ban as previous platforms have and, according to the New York Times, claims that the party backs “access to birth control, and IVF (fertility treatments).” This is indeed a more moderate stance than the GOP has taken in the past.

It also seems like a lie.

The truth is that Republicans have had the chance to do all of these things already, and they haven’t. If leaving abortion to the states was the plan, why have Republicans pushed for national bans in Congress? Why has Trump suggested he would support a national 15-week ban? Why have Republicans supported laws that would ban not just abortion from day one, but could extend to IVF and many forms of contraception as well?

Why, when given the opportunity to vote to protect contraception access, did Senate Republicans refuse? Why, when given the opportunity to vote to protect IVF, did Senate Republicans block the legislation from coming to a vote at all? Why have anti-abortion groups tried to ban the abortion pill, and why have many Republicans not only backed them, but taken it upon themselves to warn pharmacies that sell these pills? Why don’t Republicans seem to want to repeal a Victorian-era law that could criminalize abortion pills, and potentially contraception as well?

The answer is presumably that Republicans don’t actually plan on moderating when it comes to abortion. They simply increasingly understand that they need to say the right things to get into office.

Trump has given little indication that he cares about abortion rights one way or another, and he has flip-flopped on the issue throughout his life in the public eye. In 1999 he said he was “pro-choice in every respect,” even though he personally hated abortion.

Since his 2016 campaign, it seems he has said whatever he thinks Republican voters want to hear. He backed a national 20-week ban and promised to appoint pro-life judges who he thought would overturn Roe. Earlier this year, he said a 15-week national ban sounded very reasonable; now he doesn’t seem to want to discuss it.

Trump also seems to want to distance himself from Project 2025, a plan devised by the conservative group the Heritage Foundation, which aims to drastically reshape the federal government to better support a conservative agenda if Trump should regain the White House.

“I have no idea who is behind it,” Trump said of Project 2025 on Truth Social. “I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

Trump seems to have discovered that you have to say the right things if you want to be put in power, whether or not you actually plan on following through. He has proved he is not an honest or trustworthy man. So, we should assume that what Trump says in order to get elected gives us very little information on what he will actually do in office.

The anti-abortion movement seems to understand this better than anyone. Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told the New York Times that “The mission of the pro-life movement, for the next six months, must be to defeat the Biden-Harris extreme abortion agenda.” After that point, she presumably understands, Trump can do whatever he wants — including the extreme anti-abortion movement’s bidding.

The anti-abortion strategy is clear: claim moderation, while in practice continuing to push radically unpopular and extreme policies. Voters have a choice: We can believe that Donald Trump and his GOP are saying. Or we can judge them on what they’re actually doing.

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