It’s not every day we start our discussion of current events with the president’s sex life.
Well, actually, it’s gotten to be pretty frequent. But today we’re going to talk less about what Donald Trump does in bed and more about his efforts to interfere with other people’s intimate affairs.
“When I ran for office, I pledged to stand for life. And as president, that’s exactly what I’ve done,” he told a cheering anti-abortion crowd Tuesday night. Abortion opponents like to call themselves “pro-life,” but the Trump administration has gone further than simply making it more difficult for women to terminate a pregnancy.
Trump’s had a virtual war on birth control, beginning with an attempt to eliminate the rule that employer health insurance cover contraceptives. Now he’s built a Department of Health and Human Services that wants to promote family planning methods that involve … not having sex.
And he’s come a long way from the guy who once told a national TV audience that he was “very pro-choice.” Although to be fair, that was way back in 1999, when he was still in his 50s and presumably hadn’t had time to work out a mature position on the subject.
Ever since he came into office, Trump has been letting right-wing activists run federal family planning programs. They’re at war with Planned Parenthood, which doesn’t get any government money for abortions. But it does provide reproductive health services to an enormous number of low-income women under the federal Title X program. Under a new rule, the doctors and nurses would have to refuse to even answer patient questions about how to terminate a pregnancy. That’s not going to happen and we’ll see this one in court.
Meanwhile, clinics with very conservative views can edit down their information and eliminate any discussion of, say, IUDs. Or just restrict the conversation to abstinence. Yes, a Donald Trump presidency is pushing a no-sex agenda. Cue the irony.
“But if Democrats gained power? They will try to reverse these incredible gains. These are historic gains,” Trump warned his audience Tuesday. It was a gala sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group that claims it’s following the will of the great feminist founding mother.
There’s actually no real indication of what Susan B. Anthony thought about the subject. Lynn Sherr, a Susan B. biographer, said she’s sure the idea of being an anti-abortion poster girl would have driven Anthony “absolutely bananas.”
It’s highly, highly unlikely that Trump ever mulled this matter. Last year, when the White House held a celebration for Women’s History Month, he asked his guests if they had ever heard of Susan B. Anthony, as if he was delivering exciting new information. It was sort of like asking a gathering of Republican business leaders, “Have you ever heard of Ronald Reagan?” But never mind.
Whenever the president’s war on choice comes up, you can’t help wondering whether during his bachelor days — and O.K., his adultery days — Trump didn’t at some point send a partner off to have her pregnancy terminated. We do know from Stormy Daniels that he’s not all that careful when it comes to condoms.
Maureen Dowd once asked Trump whether he was “ever involved with anyone who had an abortion?”
“Such an interesting question,” he responded. “So what’s your next question?”
There was also a 2004 interview in which Trump said that when his girlfriend, Marla Maples, told him she was pregnant, he rejoined, “Well, what are we going to do about this?” Which did not sound like an invitation to go shop for cribs.
You have to ask yourself if Trump has ever examined his own true feelings about abortion. It certainly didn’t seem to be uppermost in his mind at Tuesday’s speech, when he kept veering off onto other subjects. Including, of course, reminding the crowd that he had won the election in 2016. (“That beautiful, beautiful evening. November. Remember that evening? Could it have been more beautiful?”)
If he thinks about reproductive rights at all, it has less to do with biology or ethics than with his beloved Base, which currently needs to be roused for the fall elections.
“Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016,” he read from his prepared text. Then added, “Although I’m not sure I really believe that.” No, nothing is as important as Donald Trump winning the presidency. The signing of the Declaration of Independence, two world wars, the invention of the printing press … details, details.
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Back in the day, Trump liked to point out that he hated “the concept of abortion,” before adding, “I just believe in choice.” That, of course, was totally reasonable. The goal of groups like Planned Parenthood is to help women have children when they want them and avoid getting pregnant when they don’t. And when a woman seeks abortion, to make it safe and readily available in order to avoid those late-term procedures Trump has now discovered he hates so much.
Hardly likely he’s given all that much thought. This is the guy, after all, who had two meetings with Bill Gates and asked at both whether there was a difference between H.I.V. and HPV.