The Anti-Choice Movement Is As Unimpressed With Donald Trump As You Are

Last week, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump again pulled off the classic Trumpian magic trick of offending multiple constituencies at once. Speaking to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Trump said there must "be some form of punishment” for women who get abortions if the procedure is outlawed. Within hours, Trump backtracked from those abortion remarks, saying that doctors or whomever provided the abortions should be punished. Unsurprisingly, the outrageous proposal was immediately and resoundingly criticized by the pro-choice movement. However, ire from the other side of the aisle was less expected. But it turns out that pro-life advocates hate Trump for slapping an ugly orange face on a movement they’ve worked hard to rebrand as kind, gentle, and pro-woman.

A small but growing number of women who identify as pro-life describe themselves as feminists. For many of them, Trump raising the specter of female punishment was seriously off-message. Claire Swinarski, who identifies as a pro-life feminist and is a freelance journalist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is among those who disliked The Donald’s remarks. “Donald Trump claims he's pro-life, but pro-life is about more than stopping abortion. It's about making sure that women are able to thrive in society,” Swinarski tells Bustle. While she's opposed to abortions, Swinarski says she favors emphasizing “policies that allow mothers to thrive, like paid maternal leave, a more efficient, affordable adoption system, and affordable childcare on college campuses.”

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“No one in the pro-life movement wants to punish women who have abortions,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, tells Bustle. “Women facing crisis pregnancies deserve compassion, love, understanding, and tangible support.”

Mallory Quigley, communications director of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nonprofit that supports pro-life candidates for elective office, agrees. “The pro-life movement has never advocated for the punishment of women who undergo an abortion,” she tells Bustle. Trump “seriously missed the mark … he absolutely missed the suffering that a woman goes through, regardless of the circumstances … it’s always been about protection and healing rather than punishment.”

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I don’t doubt the good faith of women like Swinarski, Hawkins, and Quigley, who say they care about other women. But all the good intentions in the world won’t ease daily life for a woman who is pregnant and does not want to be.

Quigley tells me there are thousands of pregnancy resource centers nationwide, many within walking distance of abortion clinics, that “exist solely to provide women with the material, financial support that they need to choose life and be in the best position to provide for their children. You can go and you can get baby clothes, you can get several months’ rent, you can take parenting classes, learn marketable skills that can help you to find a job, and, of course, we support policies like adoption tax credits and other things that make it easier for women to choose life.”

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How about childcare, given that 60 percent of women who get abortions are mothers already? “I think so, absolutely … I couldn’t speak for every single pregnancy resource center that exists across this country and give you an exact list of what they provide,” says Quigley. She offers to put me in touch with spokesmen for two pregnancy center networks, Care Net and Heartbeat. Vincent DiCaro, Care Net’s chief outreach officer, tells Bustle that centers “work with clients on a case-by-case basis, depending on what the center has available to it and what other resources/services/organizations are available in the community.” Women who come to Care Net for help are referred to places like the Salvation Army, which offers short-term rent assistance programs. DiCaro says the Care Net in central Texas offers housing facilities to its clients.

Jay Hobbs, Heartbeat’s director of marketing & communications, tells Bustle that its centers provide “material aid” to women in the form of “diapers, wipes, car seats, formula, clothing, etc.” Some centers do offer money for rent or food in special cases, but “that’s not a typical cost for a pregnancy center.”

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Many pro-life circles prefer to see women who seek abortions as victims, coerced by partners or family members, lied to and manipulated by greedy, evil doctors, or — best-case scenario — unaware of the alternatives. But some agree with Trump that women should potentially be held accountable for their decision to have an abortion, especially if it is made illegal. Carolyn Crain, who currently serves as legislative chair of the Washington (state) Federation of Republican Women, supports the right to early, medically necessary terminations. However, if abortion were illegal in this country, she says in an email to Bustle that “any person wishing to get one and seeking assistance to achieve that goal through the means of soliciting a doctor or clinician … is indeed breaking the law.” She adds that “Murder is murder. Penalties must be applied, and we should not pick or choose who should be forced to obey laws … to that end, Donald Trump is absolutely correct.”

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Trump’s careless remark revealed what a mass of contradictions the pro-life movement is. For some, it’s about respecting women and supporting mothers. Or it's about providing a few diapers’ worth of financial support and best wishes for the next 18 years. Or it’s about supporting women who feel devastated and conflicted about their abortions, but only if they feel remorseful. Even in its most benign form, it’s not helping women, and neither is Donald Trump.

Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster