Could Donald Trump Make Abortion Illegal As President? There Would Be Several Roadblocks Ahead Of Him
At MSNBC's town hall event Tuesday night, host Chris Matthews pressed Donald Trump on the issue of abortion. Ultimately, Trump told Matthews that abortion should be made illegal in the U.S., and that there should be "some form of punishment" for women who pursue abortions after such a ban. Trump fell in line with most Republicans by switching to a pro-life stance at the beginning of his presidential bid. He continually insists that he is staunchly pro-life, so we have reason to believe that as president (*shudder*), he would take steps to limit access to the procedure. But could Trump really make abortion illegal?
No — not singlehandedly, anyway. In order to make abortion illegal nationwide, Trump would need to either get a constitutional amendment passed or stack a Supreme Court that would be willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Here's what those measures would require.
A constitutional amendment — like the one currently being discussed in Alabama which would give fetuses the legal status of personhood — would make abortion illegal, possibly regardless of circumstances such as rape or incest. But constitutional amendments require the support of 75 percent of a state legislature. According to Fox News, several states have tried to institute such amendments within their own borders, but they have been voted down each time. It's highly unlikely such a thing would happen on a national scale, then.
Perhaps a more realistic concern is the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. Given that Republicans in the Senate are refusing to consider President Obama's Supreme Court nominee during his final year in office, it's possible that the next president will nominate the new Supreme Court judge. If Republicans maintain control of the Senate going into 2017 and Trump wins the presidency, that judge would likely be conservative and against abortion.
However, a complete overturn of Roe v. Wade isn't likely. The landmark 1973 case established abortion as an issue of women's constitutionally-protected right to privacy. A 2013 Wall Street Journal / MSNBC poll found public opposition to overturning the decision to be at an all-time high —70 percent — since they began conducting the poll in 1990. The decision has been upheld in the Supreme Court for more than 43 years.
But the very real possibility for reproductive rights under President Trump and his Supreme Court pick is that the Court would be more likely to make decisions that allow states to place greater and greater restrictions on abortion access. One such case is being decided by the Court in 2016: Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt , which could result in allowing 22 states to limit their number of abortion providers by placing rigid standards on the facilities in which the procedures are performed. This would also pave the way for other states to adopt such restrictive measures. Other restrictive measures include requiring doctors to have admitting privileges to a hospital within a certain range of clinics where abortions are provided and barring health insurance coverage of the procedure.
So no, President Trump (*shudder*) could not walk into the Oval Office and instantly make abortion illegal in the United States. But it's likely that a Trump presidency, or any Republican presidency, for that matter, would facilitate increased restrictions on accessing abortion.