Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Trump says he'd consider restrictions on access to contraception, sparking a political firefight and putting his ignorance of the law and governance on full display

(Associated Press)

Donald Trump said in an interview yesterday with a Pittsburgh television station that, if elected president,  he would consider regulations that limit Americans' access to contraception. In fact, Trump was asked twice in the interview if he supported restrictions on contraception, and both times, he indicated he was "looking at" the issue and intended to release a comprehensive policy statement shortly. Trump backed away from the statement after the story started drawing widespread press coverage and harsh criticism from Democrats.

The controversy raises a number of questions about Trump and his campaign:

(1) Does the candidate spout off whatever extremist idea enters his cranium, while giving it little or no thought and not even consulting his advisers?

(2) Does the mishandling of this issue indicate a Trump second term likely would be even more chaotic than his first, with neither Trump nor his advisers able to communicate effectively with each other -- and with neither having any idea how to govern in an orderly, effective fashion?

(3) Do Trump and his team have any clue how complex a  matter such as contraception -- born from privacy rights based in longstanding civil-rights law -- can be?. A paragraph from the website of the Connecticut judicial branch provides clues about the complexity involved:

In 1965, the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, ruling that a married couple has a right of privacy that cannot be infringed upon by a state law making it a crime to use contraceptives. While the right of privacy is not specifically guaranteed by the Constitution, the Griswold Court reasoned that it emanates from certain guarantees in the Bill of Rights. Griswold then paved the way for the Supreme Court's historic ruling in the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court went on to hold that the right of privacy encompasses a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Griswold v. Connecticut served as an important precedent in the Roe v. Wade decision.

(4) When Trump was asked about possible restrictions on contraception, did he know anything about information in the above paragraph. Had he ever given it any thought before opening his mouth and blabbing about a subject on which he probably is ignorant?

(5) Did Trump reveal himself to be a hypocrite of epic proportions. During his hush-money trial in Manhattan, Stormy Daniels testified that Trump did not use a condom during their sexual encounter at a Lake Tahoe, NV, hotel. Yes, the man who wants to take away the right of women to access contraception had extramarital, unprotected sex with a porn star he barely knew -- no condom. What kind of hypocrisy does that reflect? What kind of dreadful judgment does that show? And some Americans think this guy should be "Leader of the Free World"" The mere thought should send shivers down the spines of every sentient being in the U.S.  

Given the string of incidents on the campaign trail in recent weeks, where Trump has struggled to string together a few simple sentences -- causing many political observers to wonder if he might have a brain disorder that has scrambled his cognitive ability -- Trump simply might not have understand the question and was not inclined to ask a question that might have provided him some clarity? Does this, and other elements of the contraception question, suggest Trump is unfit to serve as president?

Under the headline "Trump says he is open to restrictions on contraception before backing away from the statement," the Associated Press' (AP) Christine Fernando provides a blow-by-blow account of the controversy:

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he was open to supporting regulations on contraception and that his campaign would release a policy on the issue “very shortly,” comments that he later said were misinterpreted.

The comments, made during an interview with a Pittsburgh television station, suggested that a future Trump administration might consider imposing mandates or supporting state restrictions on such highly personal decisions as whether women can have access to birth control. During an interview with KDKA News, Trump was asked, “Do you support any restrictions on a person’s right to contraception?”

“We’re looking at that and I’m going to have a policy on that very shortly,” Trump responded, according to a video of the interview that was briefly posted online before it was supposed to air, then taken down.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was pressed in a follow-up question if that meant he may want to support some restrictions on contraception.

“Things really do have a lot to do with the states, and some states are going to have different policy than others,” Trump responded, before repeating that he would be releasing “a very comprehensive policy” on the issue.

This is the first time Trump has suggested he would have a policy on contraception since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a national right to abortion two years ago, touching off political battles about aspects of reproductive rights, including contraception and in vitro fertilization.

The sections highlighted in blue above show that Trump was asked twice about possible restrictions on contraception, and neither time, did he say the subject would not be considered. AP's Fernando provides more details, showing how Trump's ineptitude -- and apparent ignorance on a subject of huge importance to millions of Americans -- caused an issue to blow up in his face, in a way that should be alarming and embarrassing to those who reside in Trump's orbit, giving his opponents a gift-wrapped opportunity to campaign on an issue that appears to present a no-win situation for Trump:

Responding later to media reports of his interview, Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social that he “has never and will never” advocate for restricting birth control and other contraceptives. Even so, the Biden campaign was quick to seize on the interview.

“Women across the country are already suffering from Donald Trump’s post-Roe nightmare, and if he wins a second term, it’s clear he wants to go even further by restricting access to birth control and emergency contraceptives,” Biden-Harris spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said in a statement.

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate have long pressed Trump on the crucial question of whether he would allow women to access the abortion pill mifepristone via the mail. He has yet to make clear his views on the Comstock Act, a 19th-century law that has been revived by anti-abortion groups seeking to block the mailing of mifepristone and other abortion medications.

When asked during an April 12 interview with TIME magazine for his views on the Comstock Act and the mailing of abortion pills, the former president promised to make a statement on the issue in the next 14 days, saying “I feel very strongly about it. I actually think it’s a very important issue.”

During an April 27 follow-up interview, Trump said he would announce his stance “over the next week or two.” It’s now been three weeks since the interviews were published on April 30 and over five weeks since Trump told the magazine he would release a statement.

When asked by the Associated Press for an update on when the announcement would be made, campaign officials reiterated a statement that reaffirmed Trump’s strategy of deferring to individual states on abortion. They did not give an updated timeline for a policy statement on medication abortion.

The Trump and Biden campaigns jostled the rest of the day over the hornet's nest Trump threw into their midst:

“President Trump has long been consistent in supporting the rights of states to make decisions on abortion,” the statement said.

Biden campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt said Trump’s allies have already “outlined exactly how they plan to eliminate abortion access nationwide with or without Congress.”

“We know Trump’s playbook because we’ve seen it,” she said in a statement. “Trump overturned Roe, brags about it constantly, and is proud of the horrific reality where women’s lives are at risk, doctors are threatened with jail time, and IVF and birth-control access are under attack.”

Trump has often relied on the tactic of promising an announcement on a major policy stance in “two weeks” but not delivering, including on issues such as minimum wage, tax policy and infrastructure. Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion groups alike have expressed frustration with the delay.

“I imagine the events in New York City have been very distracting, but we are watching for an announcement,” said Kristi Hamrick, spokesperson for the anti-abortion group Students for Life, referring to the former president’s hush money trial.

Hamrick said the group has been speaking with Trump’s team about what can be done to restrict abortion at the federal level.

Mini Timmaraju, president of the abortion rights group Reproductive Freedom for All, pointed to the GOP’s Project 2025 playbook -- a blueprint for ways to reshape the federal government in the event of a Republican presidential win in 2024. The Comstock Act is not explicitly mentioned in the plan, but it calls for reversing FDA approval of mifepristone and restricting “mail order abortions.”

“Trump will say whatever he wants, but what really matters is what he did — and that’s to facilitate ending the constitutional right to abortion and set state abortion bans into motion,” she said.

At least 22 states require abortion medication to be delivered in person either by prohibiting mail delivery or requiring medication to be taken in a doctor’s office, though such laws have been temporarily blocked from going into effect in Kentucky, Montana, and Ohio amid legal battles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

No comments: