Opinion: Trump’s State of the Union attack on abortion rights was pathetic — even for him

President Trump hands copies of his State of the Union speech to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Vice President Mike Pence before delivering the address.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

It was beyond the pale outrageous that President Trump, in his State of the Union address, would somehow link support for (admirable) advances in neonatal medicine to asking for a (probably) unconstitutional ban on late-term abortions.

On a night when he claimed he supported healthcare for all, he exhorted — bullied — the lawmakers in the room to cut off and demonize those who would exercise their right to abortion.

The fact that neonatal medicine has managed to keep alive babies born extremely prematurely is remarkable and a tribute to medical advancement. How wonderful that a woman whose baby daughter was born at 21 weeks, weighing less than a pound, has watched her survive and thrive and celebrate a 2nd birthday. Both were among Trump’s guests at his speech Tuesday night. It’s fine for Trump to say that every premature baby should have medical care that helps their chances and, toward that end, he asked Congress to fund an additional $50 million toward neonatal research.


But to then follow that thought by saying that was the reason he was also “calling upon members of Congress here tonight to pass legislation finally banning the late-term abortion of babies” was ridiculous and unconscionable.

First of all, abortion laws don’t stop neonatal research. They are unrelated. Second, the whole point of constitutionally-upheld abortion laws is to allow women to choose whether they want to carry a fetus to term.

Also, late-term abortions (generally meaning early in the third trimester) are rare and highly regulated already. The women who choose them generally either have a fetus with a profound disability or are, themselves, at grave danger if they continue with the pregnancy. The idea of banning all access to later abortion cuts off a woman’s right to control her body and protect her own life.

And by the way, the state laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures that impede a woman’s access to a timely abortion or discourage clinics from operating only serve to delay abortions and push them later into a woman’s pregnancy.

This was not the first State of the Union address in which Trump talked about banning late-term abortion. But it was particularly galling to hear him intimate this year that it’s the flip side of promoting heroic medical efforts to save extremely premature babies.

This is nothing more than a dark political calculation on Trump’s part. I don’t believe for a minute that Trump is publicly antiabortion for any reason beyond currying favor with his far-right base and the evangelicals he is counting on to help him win reelection.


Alarmingly, most of the damage Trump has done to abortion rights is on so many other fronts — trying to end federal research on fetal tissue, reinstating a policy banning U.S. funding to organizations overseas that provide abortion (even when though they don’t use the federal funding for abortion), preventing organizations that provide desperately needed health services to underserved populations across the country under the Title X program from receiving federal funds if they do nothing more than offer a pregnant patient a request for an abortion referral.

Trump’s rhetoric on abortion is vile, and his State of the Union speech held a prime example of that.