Does Trump’s incoherent stance on abortion open a space for progressive reproductive policies?

Trump’s populist rhetoric encompasses the most emotive and populist issues on the far right of the Republican Party. Despite this, his stance on abortion and reproductive rights has been far from coherent, angering both sides of the debate. Does Trump’s rise – signifying the collapse of the moderateRepublican Party – further enable progressive reproductive policies? Or does his populism simply demonstrate how far the US has to come in this policy area?

I imagine that young people in the UK often taken for granted the accessibility of reproductive healthcare. Emergency contraception is readily available from local pharmacies, free contraception available on the NHS, and there are confidential sexual health clinics in most towns and cities.

The experience for many in the US is very different to this. Although the 1964 Roe vs Wade ruling remains in place – maintaining the baseline requirements that all states must permit a minimum period where abortion is legal – the ruling is becoming less effective, given that many counties in the US do not have any abortion providers at all. In Texas, a state almost three times the size of the UK, only 9 abortion providers remain. For women unable to afford transport – and too scared to ask for help - this proves an impossible situation. Between 2013 and 2015, reports showed that over 100,000 women in Texas alone had attempted to self-induce an abortion.

Like many of his policy positions, Trump’s stance on reproductive justice has often been incoherent, and often angering both Democrats and moderate Republicans alike. He has frequently commented that women should be denied access to abortion, stating that for women that do, “there has to be some form of punishment.” This serves to damage pro-life campaigners who have usually put forwards their case on the platform of religion, and the best option for the mother and the child. Discourse stigmatising female sexuality is often surrounding these claims, but often not promoted by ‘mainstream’ leaders of the cause.

Hilary has maintained her strong pro-choice platform, while being the first candidate in a primary race to have accepted an endorsement from Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, the “Republican Women for Obama” campaign, prominent in the 2012 presidential race, are again making appearances this year, following the libertarian principles that the Democrat stance on reproductive healthcare allows them (and their families) more autonomy than the Republican nominee would.

Despite the prominence that Clinton’s campaign has given to progressive reproductive healthcare policies in moderate spheres of US politics, the Republican Party is simply trying to play catch up with Trump. Like the threat of UKIP in the UK encourages anti-immigration populism among moderate politicians as a perceived vote-winner, Trump’s rise has shifted what it means to be a ‘moderate’ Republican politician, and further emboldened the pro-life advocates in the party.

The good news for pro-choice campaigners, is that this rhetoric from the Republican Party only satisfies the base vote and further alienates moderate voters. However, unless the Republican Party collapses completely, it is likely that Trump’s rise – and likely defeat – will only serve to accelerate the polarised geography of reproductive rights in the US.

 Jenny McConnel is a Young Fabian member & will be attending the USA Delegation in September

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