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Can Trump Successfully Navigate an Abortion Middle Ground?

The expected maneuver could prove either electoral gold—or drive a wedge through his ranks.

(Longfin Media/Shutterstock)

Donald Trump is teasing a nationwide abortion policy. In answer to President Joe Biden’s promise to “restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land” (so long as he remains vertical long enough), the former president and 2024 Republican nominee has hinted at a federal limit on abortion procedures, likely in the 15th week of pregnancy, to “make both sides happy” in the leadup to the general election.  

It’s a bold move from the former president, not that he’s a stranger to such things. Most Republican politicians and their advisors have declared mum on the subject of infanticide, at least until November 6. (The midterm ballot-proposal trouncing remains an intimidating specter to most.) But Trump is liked precisely because he ignores advisors, and in an election which may well be a referendum on abortion, not to mention IVF, it would be refreshing to know what we’re actually choosing between in November. 


The idea that both sides may be contented is bolder still. Unlike a national budget, what is at stake here are two fiercely opposed ideas, one which says all human life is sacred, and another which says some humans are more sacred than others. Compromise on this issue is perceived as total betrayal, at least for the left. As one example of this, 15-week abortion bans are just as unpopular with left-leaning voters as 6 week abortion bans, despite the wide difference between them in terms of abortions prevented. Pro-abortion voters polled by NARAL overwhelmingly rejected the idea that 15 weeks was even a compromise; the same cohort has frequently depicted the idea of a 15-week ban as “an extreme position.” It is hard to imagine any limit on abortion, by timeline, cost, or otherwise, that would not evoke a similar response. 

The same conscience does not seem to guide Republicans. While the party has spent decades affirming life begins at conception, the ease with which many have already settled on 15 weeks looks borderline chumpish. The vast majority of abortions nationally happen before 15 weeks: Only 6 percent occur at any point afterward. 

The very idea of a middle ground is premised on concessions. It is worth asking why the right continues to give them, while the left does no such thing. Abortion activists have increasingly succeeded in making anything less than abortion on demand with no exceptions, covered by insurance, and up to the point of birth appear to be tyranny, denying women lifesaving reproductive medicine: The human sacrifices must continue. Instead of resisting the ratchet effect, meeting this vigor with truth, many on the right have winced or apologized. In due time, a law preventing abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy becomes not just a “necessary compromise” but even a stunning win. After all, Virginia allows abortions until the 27th week of pregnancy. We’re better than that.

Thus we find ourselves celebrating a little bit less baby killing. The choice has become total death or something less than total death, the amount of which remains to be determined. Still, it is worth asking at what point a party has given away more than it has gained. Case in point: A 15-week national ban is unlikely to actually pass, even with a Republican executive. Despite polling from the GOP suggesting the magic compromise line may be found somewhere in the second trimester, every referendum on it at the ballot box has decidedly not borne this out, and Republicans in the House and Senate have taken note. 

That is probably at least in part because there is no rationale for 15 weeks: It is a simple median, and people rarely go to bat for medians. People do go to bat, especially women, when you tell them that men are going to take away their rights. We might learn to work with that.

All of this combines to make a very unpleasant picture for the unborn. With chemical abortifacients far more readily available since 2020, and a plethora of radically pro-abortion laws passed in blue states since the Dobbs decision, the total number of reported abortions in the United States have reached a record high in recent months, even though individual states like Texas and Tennessee have seen declines. 

Nevertheless, while making both parties happy seems like a pipe dream, there is one position which will make the majority of women happy—actually happy, that is, not happy-on-medication, gender-confused, girlbossing, quiet quitting, divorced, in therapy, California sober, or writing trashy personals in the New Yorker. This policy is the one that leaves them with more babies rather than fewer. It is the law that protects them from post-abortion trauma, guilt, and depression. It is law that knows and loves the best of their nature, rather than catering to the worst.


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