"A gaffe," Michael Kinsley once famously wrote, "is when a politician tells the truth."
By that criterion, Donald Trump has- finally- committed a gaffe. The shame of it all is that he has taken it back.
First, Trump offered a clarification of his remarks about punishing the women who have an abortion if and when the procedure is banned. Then he issued a statement reversing his initial comments. The following day (Thursday) he complained to Fox News' Eric Bolling "You really had to hear it, the whole thing. This is a long, convoluted question — this was a long discussion, and they just cut it out. But it was extremely — it was extremely convoluted.” Responding to a follow-up question, he claimed "We talked about Catholicism and his religion and Chris went back and forth about that and this was a very long, convoluted discussion."
Matthews did not go "back and forth about that," only responding to Trump's (evidently unsuccessful) effort at controlling the interview. MSNBC edited nothing and the questioning was not convoluted, at least to anyone who knows anything about the issue.
Americans United for Life has consistently contended "the woman is the second victim of the abortionist." In response to the candidate's remarks, President Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List refers to the woman who has had an abortion as "gravely wounded." Jeannie Mancini, President of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund, claims "Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion ."
Trump could have, in contrast to anti-choice organizations and politicians, reiterated the truth he had let slip in his interview with Matthews. Amanda Marcotte explains
Trump is clearly not conversant in the disingenuous posturing about abortion expected of all anti-choice politicians. If he was, he’d know the official stance that Republicans are supposed to take is that women are victims of abortion and therefore cannot be held responsible for it. Yes, it’s true that women pick up the phone, make the appointment, talk through their decisions with medical professionals, sign paperwork and then either take a pill or let the doctor perform an abortion, but none of this should be taken, in conservative eyes, as evidence that women are the people responsible for the abortion happening. Women are regarded by conservatives as fundamentally incapable of making grown-up decisions. If they choose abortion (and by implication, if they choose sex), it’s because they poor dears were misled.
Like a heat-seeking missile, Marcotte then blows to smithereens the anti-choice line by adding "Yes, the same people that conservatives treat as literally too stupid to understand what making a medical decision entails are then expected to raise children."
The pro-life community is intent on not only discouraging abortion but encouraging childbirth by the same women whom it portrays as easily deluded and exploited. As Charlie Pierce notes of forced-birth politicians, "the real target has always been Griswold and not Roe." Digby recognizes the irrationality of the the crusaders against abortion, who strongly infer that "the woman who solicits it is not guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect. Keep in mind that one third of American women have an abortion at some point in their lives. That’s a whole lot of defective crazy ladies we’re allowing to roam free in society."
After Donald Trump is denied the GOP nomination or loses in the general election, he can go down in American political history as the crudest, most brazenly misogynistic and nativist candidate in major-party annals. Or he could go down as someone who boldly reiterated a major gaffe: if abortion is banned because civic leaders (allegedly) believe it is killing, and a woman seeks, procures, and bribes a person to perform the procedure, she be subject to prosecution.
He has made his choice. He, and we, will be far worse off for it..