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Roe v Wade

Trump’s abortion problem

Trump in 1999: “pro-choice in every respect”. Lefranc David/Corbis Kipa/Sygma/Getty

In public, Donald Trump has heralded the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade as a personal victory, say Maggie Haberman and Michael Bender in The New York Times. But behind closed doors, the former president is much less thrilled. His concern is that the landmark ruling will lead to a backlash against Republicans in the midterm elections in November. Banning abortions, Trump reckons, will anger suburban women, a key voting demographic “who helped tilt the 2020 race” in Joe Biden’s favour. Texas tightened its abortion laws last year, a move Trump privately labelled as “so stupid” for this very reason.

“Trump has long seemed to have a special difficulty in grappling with the subject of abortion.” In 1999, he said he hated the “concept of abortion” but would never ban it: “I am pro-choice in every respect.” By 2011, when he was considering running for president as a Republican, he’d declared himself pro-life. But he still made the occasional slip-up. When an interviewer asked Trump in 2015 if he opposed terminating pregnancies, he replied: “Right, I’m pro-choice.” The interviewer looked confused, and Trump stuttered: “I’m pro-life, I’m sorry.” As president, he “seemed to swing between fascination with and repulsion from the subject”, regularly deferring to his unabashedly pro-life vice president, Mike Pence. Trump clearly understands the “thorniness” of abortion. No wonder he’s privately nervous.