As we were all reminded during an especially horrendous town hall last week, Donald Trump is not a shy man. His thoughts, much like his policies, tend to flow unvarnished, regardless of how misogynistic, delusional, and contradictory they might be.
But there’s one topic the former president has never seemed to want to offer a real stance on: abortion. That sidestepping strategy carried him in 2016—and it appears as though Trump believes it will work once again, even as political observers and rivals push him to attach a number to his extremist views.
Take a look at how the frontrunner of the Republican Party attempted to thread the needle on one of the most important issues of the presidential election over just the last week:
As my colleague Abigail Weinberg noted during CNN’s town hall featuring the former president last week, Trump repeatedly deflected questions on a national abortion ban. Even some in the audience seemed confused. “He didn’t actually answer me,” a registered nurse at the event said after asking Trump how he planned to appeal to women concerned after the fall of Roe. “Deals are being made,” Trump said instead. “Deals are going to be made.”
A small level of specificity came days later while attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing,” Trump told The Messenger. “But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh.”
When asked how he personally felt about a six-week ban, however, Trump was characteristically noncommittal. The interview didn’t sit well with DeSantis, who quickly called out Trump for refusing to commit to the issue. “I signed the bill,” DeSantis hit back. “I was proud to do it. [Trump] won’t answer whether he would sign it or not.”
Perhaps sensing an emerging weakness, Trump let loose with the following:
Donald Trump: "I was able to kill Roe v. Wade."
He takes credit for the abortion bans that have resulted from Dobbs, including 6-week prohibitions. pic.twitter.com/CQODNGqgTb
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) May 17, 2023
Many things can be evinced from these chaotic remarks: Trump is an idiot in the English language, and he still posts with abandon. But perhaps the most important point is that for Trump, an abortion debate doesn’t even exist. His policies, if you can call it that, have always been reactionary, designed in his brain to please whoever happens to be in the room. As Trump suggested this morning, he doesn’t care about the matter of “6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever.” He correctly asserts that he was a critical player in removing the constitutional right to an abortion—and that should speak for itself.
You could be forgiven for hoping that Trump’s elusiveness the first time around was a sign that maybe he’d be somewhat of a moderate on the issue. But as later evidenced, ambiguity ultimately meant that Trump never cared, and still doesn’t care, about a woman’s right to an abortion.