Opposing Abortion and Supporting Trump

April 18, 2024

 
Pro-Life Leader Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
Publication Date: April 18, 2024


Opposing Abortion and Supporting Trump: Part 1

I am totally opposed to all abortion, and enthusiastically supportive of President Trump. How is that possible?

Many of you have asked to me explain this in more detail, and I am happy to do so. On matters as contentious as abortion and politics, and in an age where communication is more reactive and instantaneous than ever, it takes a lot of discipline to really listen to one another and navigate the nuances of our explanations.

But let’s give it a try.

My personal background

I have been a fulltime national pro-life leader for 31 years, and been involved in the pro-life movement even longer, having started as a teenager in 1976. My fulltime involvement came about at my own request, having come to a point in conscience where I could not go on with my life “business as usual,” but had to devote myself fulltime to ending abortion.

I stood firm in this commitment even when Church authorities threatened to kick me out of the priesthood if I didn’t step away from my fulltime commitment to the unborn. I refused to step away from pro-life work, so they did kick me out, and I am still carrying out my fulltime pro-life commitment.

As many of you know, I have had an advisory role – on pro-life and Catholic issues -- for President Trump’s campaigns since 2016. I have had a front row seat to how his campaign, his administration, and now his team preparing for the next administration, have dealt with the abortion issue. I was one of the first leaders to endorse him in his first campaign, did so again in his second, and did so again for his current campaign, making my endorsement formal as soon as he formally announced in November of 2022.

A Quick Summary

Let me give a quick summary of where I stand, and then expand on it in more detail.

No abortion is permissible and no government can authorize even a single abortion. Our goal must be the full protection of every unborn child, ultimately through a Constitutional amendment. To achieve that goal, we have to pass laws against abortion and build consensus. This includes electing candidates who will move us in that direction.

We currently have a binary race for President, with the Democrats insisting on expanding abortion even more, and President Trump opposing their extremism and fighting for the rights of the people to protect the unborn. It’s one or the other, and obviously President Trump is better for the pro-life movement. He doesn’t represent its final goal, but rather its next steps.

It is essential to recognize the limits of what the American people and their lawmakers are willing to do at any given point in time. President Trump is trying to win the election so that we can preserve the very tools we will need to protect the unborn going forward: freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and more. We need to stop the weaponization of government which is not only expanding abortion, but throwing peaceful pro-life people in jail. To save the unborn, we have to save America itself. Voting the Democrats out of office now – and doing so with vigor and enthusiasm -- is essential to achieving this.

Recent Statements

As you know, President Trump recently released a video with his policy statement on abortion. I gave a video response, and wrote an article about it as well.

Bishop Joseph Strickland recently stated on The Terry and Jesse Show (Virgin Most Powerful Radio) that he agrees with my statement in response to President Trump.

 

Opposing Abortion and Supporting Trump: Part 2

As I continue to reflect with you on why, as one totally opposed to every abortion, I enthusiastically support President Trump, I want to emphasize four things we should focus on about what happens if he is elected: what he prevents, what he brings, whom he brings, and what he preserves.

First, what does President Trump prevent?

We are currently witnessing in America the most pro-abortion Presidential administration, and the most pro-abortion political party, in our history. They have gotten behind federal legislation that would eliminate every restriction on abortion, set up a national abortion hotline, undertaken a national abortion-promoting tour, and done everything possible to stifle the conscience, speech, votes and freedom of pro-life Americans!

Whereas the Trump Administration was the first to show up at the March for Life, the Biden Administration was the first to show up at an abortion clinic!

Here’s the point, and it couldn’t be more simple or irrefutable: the election of President Trump prevents another pro-abortion Biden Administration and stops the Democrat abortion agenda in its tracks.

This is true no matter what President Trump does or says. It is, if you will, an automatic accomplishment, a tangible and lasting victory right from day one.

Second, what does President Trump bring?

He brings solid pro-life policies that repeat and build upon what he did in his first Administration. Go back  to www.ProLifePresident.com and remind yourselves of the pro-life accomplishments of his first term – how, for instance, he protected billions of taxpayer dollars from going to the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood.

Did anyone hear him say that this was a mistake, or that he would not do this again? Of course he will do it again. The point now is not to engage in hypothetical or academic discussions about different types of pro-life legislation that are not going to end up on his desk anyway (due to the lack of will in Congress and the reality of the Senate filibuster).

Rather, focus on the things he can and will do, such as the executive actions that take money away from the abortion industry, strengthen the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and pro-life advocates, and fill our court system at every level with pro-life judges.

I do not expect President Trump to do my job or that of other pro-life leaders, which is to persuade people that all abortion is wrong and that every baby needs to be protected. We will convey that message, clearly and forcefully. Absolutely every life must be protected; abortion must be abolished.

But that’s our job to articulate.

His job, on the other hand, is to get elected and then sign every pro-life executive order, bill, and judicial appointment that he can. I don’t need his words; I need his pen.

Executive orders are being crafted right now, as we speak – hundreds of them – that will undo the damage that the Biden Administration has done, including on the issue of abortion. Do you think these executive orders rise and fall on a four-minute speech President Trump just gave? No. They are substantive, solidly pro-life policies that get into the weeds of the day to day lives of Americans and advance the right to life.

Third, whom does President Trump bring?

Why do so many people debate the Presidential race as though it’s only about the President, and as though all the work of a Presidential administration is done by that one person?

The way the Executive branch operates is far more complex and far-reaching than that, and involves thousands of people (actually, a couple of million).

The President, first of all, brings with him a Vice-President and a Cabinet. These people oversee the development and implementation of the President’s agenda day by day. And thousands of people work under them to do the same.

Now we know that many of these people, career bureaucrats and deep state operatives, need to be weeded out of government, and that is one of the things President Trump has committed to do.

But even if we just focus on the ones who will definitely come and go, we understand that along with President Trump will come people, for instance, who will head the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s key to the pro-life agenda. In his first administration, President Trump was hiring all kinds of pro-life leaders and activists to various positions in that department. I know many of them.

And I know many of the people who, right now, are helping to recruit stellar pro-life people for the President’s consideration for a second term.

Aside from HHS, consider, for instance, the Surgeon General, and the Attorney General. What will happen to conscience rights for doctors and nurses who refuse to participate in abortion? They will be strengthened. And what do you think the Department of Justice will do to peaceful pro-life advocates like Mark Houck? Raid their homes and throw them in jail, like Biden did? No, their rights will be affirmed.

It’s not about analyzing the mind, heart and soul of Donald Trump to figure out exactly how “pro-life” we think he is. It’s about the thousands of pro-life people he will bring with him – people who would not stand a chance of ever being invited in by a Democrat Administration.

Finally, what does President Trump preserve?

As I will discuss at greater length in Part 3 of this article, the Founders of our Country wrote a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution to get this nation off the ground.

When they did so, they had to deal with the problem of slavery.

The nation was divided. Some of the Founders owned slaves themselves. Others vigorously protested it. Some did both at the same time.

The Founders realized that because the states were divided on slavery, they could never get them all to ratify the Constitution if that document banned slavery at the national level.

So they allowed the states to abolish it on their own, if they wanted, or continue it, if they wanted. But with the Constitution, they created a mechanism by which slavery would in fact ultimately be abolished.

We are at a similar moment with abortion.

President Trump knows, and we all know, that the nation is deeply divided on abortion. States are going in opposite directions.

We are not currently starting a nation, but in this election we are indeed saving a nation.

The election of President Trump will in fact preserve the very tools we need to end abortion, both at the state and federal level. These tools are all under severe and sustained attack by the Democrats: free speech, free and fair elections, freedom of religion, of the press, of assembly. Our government is weaponized. We are living in a police state, in which pro-life people are being thrown in jail not for their actions but for their beliefs.

When President Trump says we need to win this election, that is not a power grab or a putting of politics above principle. On the contrary, it is about returning power to the people precisely so that they can defend principles that are under attack, and preserve the very tools our Constitution gives us to ultimately abolish abortion.

President Trump talked about “the will of the people” ending abortion. That does not mean that a majority vote determines the right to life. What is means is that the responsibility is ours to defend that right to life. And it means the freedom is ours as well. 

Why do we keep waiting for politicians to do the job we the people have to do? The responsibility is ours, and that’s what President Trump is saying.

The Democrat Party does not only hate the unborn; it hates America, it hates the Constitution, it hates freedom and it hates God.

President Trump’s message is very simple: we cannot advance the right to life unless we have free speech, free and fair elections, and all the other building blocks of a great America. The Democrats and the abortion lobby block the will of the people. President Trump is confident, as our Founders were and as we all should be, that when the will of the people is set free from tyranny, oppression, and censorship, that the truth always prevails. Freedom always prevails – for born and unborn alike.

So yes, I’m totally opposed to abortion and enthusiastically supportive of President Trump.

I will explore more of what is being said back and forth about this in Part 3 of this article.

Opposing Abortion and Supporting Trump: Part 3

Jesus: Uncompromising And Practical

Jesus Christ taught his disciples to be realists.

“Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.'

 ”Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms” (Luke 14:28-32).

This lesson was given in regard to the choice to be one of His disciples. Jesus was obviously not compromising on principle or asking his followers to do so. He was commanding us to take account of the real-world circumstances that shape our plans, decisions, and strategies whether we like it or not.

Jesus’ followers do this; our nation’s Founders did it; President Trump and his team are doing it.

The pro-life movement is driven by the a basic, fundamental, and absolute moral principle: one can never deliberately take an innocent human life. There are no exceptions to this. No earthly power, institution or government can ever authorize a single abortion, no matter what the circumstances.

What lines can we draw?

I have taught this principle clearly in all the years of my pro-life activism, since 1976, and always will.

Does the fact that I hold that principle give me the votes needed in a legislative assembly to pass a law to protect babies from abortion, or the votes needed in an election for a pro-life candidate to win? Any reasonable person has to concede that it does not. We are often in the position Jesus posited: an army of ten thousand opposing one of twenty thousand.

Yet the very fact that adhering to principle doesn’t automatically give us the victory is also the reason why devising a strategy for victory doesn’t necessarily compromise principle.

There is also another moral principle in play here: we are not responsible for the limits we did not choose.

If a legislative body, for instance, is willing to prohibit abortion starting at 15 weeks but no sooner, it is morally permissible to push for such a law, because I am not denying the protection of babies before 15 weeks. That protection has already been taken away by someone else, and I realize I don’t have the ability to restore it.

Moreover, supporting that bill that can currently pass is obligatory. Why? Because the lives that would be saved are persons, with an absolute right to life, and because government has no authority to authorize killing them.

The point here is not the percentage of babies that would be protected, but the inalienable rights of each one of them.

And note that the “line” drawn at 15 weeks in this case is not a line we choose. It is chosen for us by how many votes we have to pass it.

There is a difference between drawing lines to restore protection and drawing lines to take it away. In most places, the protection of these babies has already been removed. We work to restore it to the maximum degree possible.

But if, for instance, babies already have protection (for instance, in Arkansas) and pro-abortion people are arguing what line they should draw to take that protection away (as they have been there as they try to decide on what pro-abortion amendment to put forward), there is no moral authority or justification for drawing any lines.

The Political Reality

I don’t expect President Trump or any other politician to do my job. I will give the pro-life speeches, articulate the pro-life moral principles, and work to persuade people to abolish abortion.

The politicians have to do their job, and in order to do so, they need to get elected.

Now the reality is, as every survey and legislative vote shows, that the American people are not where we are on abortion. That’s a key truth we have to admit. As the US Catholic bishops have written, “We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue, or lack thereof, is a reflection not only on them, but on us.” (1998, Living the Gospel of Life).

So if we hear a politician trying to make the pro-life message more palatable, or not pushing as far as we would want them to go, we need to see the bigger problem: the people are not yet fully with us. We need to get them there, and that is primarily our job, not politicians.

Most of the American people want abortion policy to be hammered out on the local rather than national level. (See for instance the recent Priests for Life/McLaughlin poll at www.AbortionSurvey.org). And most of them want at least some abortion to be legal. (Again, no government can morally authorize a single abortion.)

To be sure, the Dobbs decision does not prevent the US Congress from legislating on abortion. Just the opposite: it gives them more leeway to legislate on abortion. Dobbs is not so much about “returning it to the states” (It was already in the states, and that’s how the Dobbs case came about in the first place – a Mississippi state law!) – Rather, Dobbs was about getting the courts out of the way of the will of the people.

So what is President Trump doing?

How, then, is President Trump handling all this?

Understand the big picture. His whole campaign is about saving our nation. The Democrat Party is trying to destroy it, trying to overrun it with Marxism, trying to concentrate all power within a one-party rule that cares nothing about human life, the nuclear family, faith, or freedom.

As I pointed out in Part 2 of this article, President Trump is fighting to preserve the very tools we need to abolish abortion: free speech, free and fair elections, freedom of religion, etc. He is trying to end the deep state and stop the weaponization of government, which is trying to shut down and imprison the pro-life movement.

So whether you agree with his reasoning or not, try to understand his reasoning:

None of the policy goals we have can be achieved if the country itself doesn’t survive.

We can save the country, but to do that we have to win this year’s elections.

To get elected we have to counteract the Democrats’ fear-mongering talking points.

One of those is that Republicans will ban abortion altogether – a position which most Americans currently reject.

Therefore, I will make it clear that electing me (and Republicans generally) does not mean an immediate nationwide ban on abortion.

Newsweek’s Senior Editor-at-Large Josh Hammer, who is strongly against abortion, makes similar observations about the way President Trump is handling the abortion situation.

This is not the end justifying the means. It’s simply an admission of the limitation of the means. I am not doing evil; I’m simply recognizing the limits of my ability to do good.

Remember, President Trump is strongly affirming:

The rights of citizens to make America more pro-life.

The rights of states to set policy on abortion.

The duty of each American to follow his or her faith and convictions on this issue.

The rights and freedom of the pro-life movement to speak its message and do its work.

Listen carefully to what he did and did not say.

Parallels with the Constitution and Slavery

When the Founders worked to start America, the nation was deeply divided over slavery. As President Trump calls for us to save America, the nation is deeply divided over abortion.

How did the Founders deal with their situation? Actually, it was a surprisingly similar approach. They knew the Constitution would not be ratified if it imposed a national, immediate ban on slavery.

And if they let only the anti-slavery states ratify it, the pro-slavery states would continue slavery unchecked.

Instead, the Founders saw the need to bring everyone together under one Constitution, which – along with the Declaration of Independence – contained both the principles and the mechanism by which slavery could ultimately be brought to an end everywhere in the nation.

For the time being, the states could make decisions on slavery, and the Constitution put a twenty-year time limit on any federal action for ending the slave trade.

Leading conservative commentator Mark Levin puts it this way: “The slave-holding states would have never consented to a new Constitution that struck a blow at their peculiar institution. The Constitution did, however, empower Congress to prevent its spread and set it on a course of extinction, while leaving the states free to abolish it within their own territory at any time” (The Democrat Party Hates America, p. 249).

John Avis points out that the purpose of the Founders’ policy decisions in this matter “was to confine slavery to those places where it then existed with the view of setting slavery on a course of eventual extinction.” (“The Slavery Provisions of the U.S. Constitution: Means for Emancipation,” 244).

Indeed, the questions swirled about how men who found slavery so abhorrent, and who indeed wrote in the Declaration of Independence about the unalienable right to life, could allow millions of people to continue to be enslaved under the government they were forming.

The answer is that they were able to discern whether, in Jesus’ words, they had what was needed to build the tower. They indeed built, but did to in such a way that what they constructed would preserve the tools needed to abolish slavery, recognizing they could not do so in the short term but had to win in the long term. (More details about this history can be found in this excellent article.)

Conclusion

I want to abolish abortion, and to do so as swiftly as is humanly possible. I will never compromise on that point and will only get louder and more energetic in that goal as life goes on.

To defeat abortion, we must defeat tyranny, and to do that, we must defeat the Democrat Party, which has embraced tyranny. We must win. The majority of the American people are not with us on banning all abortion, but they are very much with us on stopping abortion extremism.

We, the pro-life movement, have to be able to recognize the enemy of our enemy. It is neither necessary nor possible to agree with a political candidate on everything. That’s not what our vote is about.

Our vote is a practical, temporary transfer of limited power in order to accomplish a temporary, limited good.

The abortion tyrants in the Democrat Party hate America, hate the unborn, and hate us. President Trump leads the way in pointing that out and being ready to root out that enemy. And if our support of him is based on nothing else, let it be that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.


Priests for Life
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