Frank Cannon

Trump Names 'Pro-Life Advisory Council' In Attempt To Reassure Anti-Choice Movement

Donald Trump’s campaign has given the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody a sneak peek at the members of a “pro-life advisory council” that the candidate is set to introduce today. Earlier this month, Trump sent a letter to “pro-life leaders” laying out a number of promises that he would make to their movement and announcing that Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the anti-choice electoral group Susan B. Anthony List, would spearhead the new anti-abortion coalition for his campaign.

Trump has given the anti-abortion movement some serious heartburn during his campaign as he’s continually reshaped his position on the issue and bungled their talking points, including at one point saying that women should face “some form of punishment” for abortion if the procedure is recriminalized. But since earning the Republican nomination, he’s started to win over many skeptical anti-abortion leaders with promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who share their views and to help them dismantle Planned Parenthood.

Brody writes that the full list released today “may indeed give comfort to those remaining evangelicals who are having a tough time making their way to the voting booth this Election Cycle.” Indeed, while Trump has attempted to say different things about abortion rights to different audiences, this new coalition shows that he is ready to go all-in with a movement that ultimately wants to ban the procedure without exception.

On the new list of Trump’s anti-choice allies are a number of legislators who have taken the lead on fighting abortion rights in Congress, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who led the House select committee investigating Planned Parenthood, Rep. Diane Black, Rep. Trent Franks and Rep. Chris Smith. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is on the list, as is Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

Also joining the new coalition are Religious Right activists including Tony Perkins and Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council; Gary BauerRalph Reed; the American Principles Project’s Frank Cannon; Bill Dallas of United in Purpose; Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance; C-FAM’s Austin Ruse; and Ed Martin, head of the late Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, who is apparently sympathetic to many of Trump’s views.

The list also includes anti-abortion activists Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union, Kristan Hawkins of Students for LifeAlveda King and Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and former Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest, who now works for Bauer’s American Values.

Dannenfelser has made no secret of the fact that she eventually wants to ban abortion without exception (except for a narrow exemption for saving a woman’s life) and her group opposes some common forms of birth control, claiming that they cause abortions. Many of the activists in Trump’s new coalition have similarly extreme views and are confident that Trump will let them have their way.

Ruse, who works at the United Nations to attempt to stop the adoption of language friendly to LGBT equality and reproductive rights, has declared, for instance, that “comprehensive sexuality education” is “a phrase created in the pits of hell by wicked individuals who wanted to undermine the family and ultimately destroy any institution that stands between the family and the state.” After meeting with Trump earlier this year, Ruse said that the GOP candidate “doesn’t care about” reproductive rights and therefore will “let our side do exactly what we want to do.”

Others have presented different reasons for supporting Trump. Priests for Life’s Pavone, who has said that legal abortion is worse than terrorism, has been somewhat lukewarm about Trump but has argued that Trump’s promises on abortion overcome any other faults he might have.

In response to a caller to a Catholic radio program who said that Trump’s stances on things like nuclear warfare and going after the families of suspected terrorists aren’t exactly pro-life, Pavone said that the potential of Trump dropping an atomic bomb is less dangerous than the certainty of Hillary Clinton continuing the “raging holocaust” of legal abortion. On another radio program, Pavone argued that it is more important that a candidate be “right on abortion” than on “poverty, immigration, war and peace, homelessness [and] health care.”

Pavone, after Trump said he supported punishing women who have abortions, floated the possibility of legal punishments for abortion “accomplices,” such as the person who brings a woman to a clinic.

Pavone’s Priests for Life colleague, Alveda King, also has some extreme views on reproductive rights, including alleging that “chemicals and things” in birth control make women infertile and that Planned Parenthood gives women contraception in order to give them breast cancer.

Other activists in Trump’s coalition have been leaders of the effort to chip away at abortion access by attempting to regulate abortion providers out of existence. When Yoest was at Americans United for Life, she was at the forefront of what she called this “stealth strategy” of “trench warfare and gaining ground under the radar.”

Cruz Backer Robert George No Fan of Trump, But Group He Founded Is

Princeton University professor Robert George was a co-chair of Catholics for Cruz; when Cruz was a student at Princeton, George supervised his junior-year independent project and senior thesis. Along with George Weigel, George wrote an anti-Trump letter signed by other conservative Catholics that was published in National Review, part of the magazine’s failed effort to derail Trump’s campaign.

That letter declared Trump “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.” It decried his “vulgarity” and “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice” and his promises to order the American military to torture terror suspects and kill terrorists’ families — “actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country.”

The letter went on:

And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government….

Mr. Trump’s record and his campaign show us no promise of greatness; they promise only the further degradation of our politics and our culture. We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.

When Cruz dropped out, George tweeted “God help us.”

George expanded on that sentiment in a despairing interview with the Daily Princetonian:

Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George, who authored an endorsement for Cruz earlier this spring, said that with Cruz’s withdrawal from the race, it is now clear that voters will be choosing in November between Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“For many Americans, including myself, these are dreadful alternatives. We regard neither of these individuals as fit – morally or otherwise – to be president,” he said.

The two presumptive nominees have told appalling lies to advance or protect their political interests, George said.

“A number of people have written to me this evening asking, ‘Which should we support?’ I answer: If you believe that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, then vote for Trump. If you believe that the murders of Ambassador Stevens and the others at Benghazi were committed by a mob inflamed by a movie trailer, then vote for Clinton,” he said.

Since then, he’s continued tweeting criticism of both candidates, such as this one from May 4: “Dreadful Donald and Horrible Hillary are both products of the culture of narcissism which is the me-generation's true and lasting legacy.”

But in spite of all that, it is not clear whether George will remain in the #NeverTrump camp. George is connected to an extraordinary number of Religious Right groups, and it is difficult to overstate his role in shaping the anti-gay movement’s “religious liberty” strategy.  But at least one of those groups is on a different page.

George is the founder of the American Principles Project, which is embracing Trump based on a letter he sent the group last year saying he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act – the Religious Right-backed legislation to give special legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination – if Congress would send it to his desk.

On Thursday, APP put out a press release defending Trump against criticism from the Human Rights Campaign and saying that given a choice between Trump and the “extremist” Clinton, “the choice is incredibly easy – we have to, and will, back Trump.” APP President Frank Cannon’s statement said:

Donald Trump deserves credit from social conservatives for his principled position on protecting freedom of religion…Trump has demonstrated a commitment to the concerns of social conservatives on issues like life, marriage, and religious freedom, and he has promised to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia.

On Friday, APP’s communications director Jon Schweppe published “the moral case” for Trump in the Daily Caller. Schweppe says he votes on one issue – abortion – and that the election of Hillary Clinton would be “devastating to the pro-life cause.” Under a Trump presidency, Schweppe writes, “we have the opportunity to protect the court, replace Justice Scalia with a conservative justice, and eventually overturn Roe v. Wade…He is committed to getting this right.”

The APP bio of George ends with this disclaimer: “Views expressed by the American Principles Project and/or on this website are not necessarily those of Professor George.” Not necessarily.

 

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