Donald Trump Courts Anti-Abortion Extremists & Their Comments Are Kind Of Terrifying
Last week, while the Supreme Court was gearing up to hear the Whole Women's Health vs. Hellerstedt case that would radically impact abortion access in Texas and the United States at large, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump met with a group of anti-abortion evangelicals in Times Square in New York City. This surreal event not only witnessed Trump's supposed conversion to Christianity but was also attended by a number of well-known anti-abortion extremists who support Trump.
The closed-door event, which NPR was allowed to sit in on, inspired some truly blood-boiling soundbites as Trump pandered to his conservative hosts. At one point, Trump bizarrely stated that Americans "don't really have religious freedom" because Christians are supposedly required to cater to gay couples (a commonly-used and very oversimplified right-wing talking point). Trump later said that his Supreme Court nominees would be "great-intellects" who are also pro-life. To that end, he discussed Hillary Clinton's SCOTUS picks and said if she were to be elected president, her justices would turn America "into Venezuela." (Though in classic Trump style, he didn't clarify his comment at all, so it's kind of unclear what that absurd comment even means.)
Although NPR didn't report much discussion about abortion at the event, it was certainly the elephant in the room — a room containing some of the most stridently pro-life extremists in our country. Here are 7 of the infamous attendees on the guest list who have publicly come out in support of The Donald and against abortion:
Famous on her own for her wacky (and dangerous) opinions, Bachmann, a former Congresswoman from Minnesota, is not only married to a "pray the gay away" conversion therapist, but she is also one of the most anti-choice and anti-LGBT pundits around. At the meeting, Trump appointed her and some of the other notorious attendees to his "evangelical advisory board," which is as creepy and dystopian as it sounds.
Jerry Falwell Jr.
Son of famed televangelist pastor Jerry Falwell, Jerry Junior is the current president of Liberty University, the conservative private college his father founded. Falwell endorsed Trump early in the presidential election season, and, in turn, Trump appointed Falwell to his evangelical advisory board along with Bachmann. Although he is better-known for his gun-toting zealotry, Falwell's spiritual ties to his father's "Moral Majority" stances on abortion make him a terrifying (but politically advantageous) member of the Trump camp.
Host of the conservative Christian talk show The 700 Club and founder of the ABC Family channel, Robertson is another infamous name for Trump to drop. Robertson all-but-endorsed Trump after the presumptive nominee foolishly said women should be punished for getting abortions (a statement Trump has since walked back, saying only abortion providers should be punished). Not that Robertson noticed the violent outlandishness of the stance; he's made a career out of making crazy comments about a range of topics, from black helicopters to lesbian conspiracies.
A one-time candidate for Virginia's Lieutenant Governor position who once compared Planned Parenthood to the Klu Klux Klan, Jackson, a Christian minister and lawyer, said he hopes Trump is up to healing the "racial divide" caused by President Obama's support of Al Sharpton and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Founder of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family (a group as anti-LGBT as their name suggests) and host of the right-wing radio show Family Talk, Dobson is considered one of the most influential evangelicals in the country. This week, Dobson made headlines when he claimed that he knows the person who led Trump to Christianity and firmly believes he is committed to the faith.
Nance, the CEO and President of conservative women's group Concerned Women for America, which opposes LGBT rights and abortion, was a former Ted Cruz supporter who once said that "anyone but Trump" would be better. She changed her tune after Cruz dropped out, and her attendance at the event counts as a tacit endorsement for the presumptive Republican nominee.
Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, is less famous by far than the conservative stars he rubbed shoulders with last week, but as an anti-abortion leader in a key battleground state, his opinion on Trump could affect how right-leaning Ohioans vote. He gave Trump a resounding endorsement, saying Trump is "humble" in person and that he thinks he's the right man for the job. He then went on to email members of his organization's listserv asking them what they think about Trump. Sounds like campaign stumping to me.
The guest list of last week's event alone, which reads like a list of people from Billy Graham's personal contacts, is enough to freak out even the most bullish cynic; Trump is seriously courting the who's-who of the conservative Christian Right, which is confusing in a time when SCOTUS ruled in favor of Whole Woman's Health to help women gain access to legal abortions. As an apparent born-again Christian who's vowed to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, this Trump is very different from the Trump we knew at this point last year. And the direction he (and the party rallying around him) are taking is frankly horrifying.