48 Hours Later, Trump Still Silent on SCOTUS Abortion Decision

By Dustin Siggins Published on June 29, 2016

More than 48 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declared medical standards for abortion clinics unconstitutional, presumed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump still hasn’t commented on the momentous decision.

The silence is uncharacteristic from a candidate who praised the Court just hours after it blocked President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration last week. Trump has also often reacted quickly to perceived and actual insults and snubs from former primary opponents, media pundits and others.

Perhaps most strikingly, the Trump campaign met just last week with a thousand social conservative leaders, where he attempted to assure them of his dedication to their principles on judges, life and religious liberty. Yet the closest his campaign has come to a statement on the Court’s abortion decision is a republish of an article by The Hill that quotes a member of Trump’s Executive Evangelical Advisory Board. Mark Burns told Bloomberg that the decision is “is exactly why many Christians across America are single issue voters this election. Their sole focus is the types of Supreme Court justices that each candidate will appoint.”

The board itself released a statement, which Bloomberg interpreted as a Trump campaign response, even though the board includes people like Richard Land and Stream publisher James Robison who have declined to endorse Trump (or any other candidate):

“In an unprecedented meeting last week with American Christian leaders, Donald J. Trump promised to only appoint pro-life justices,” the board’s statement said. “We commend him and pray that the tragedy of today’s ruling will not be repeated in subsequent administrations.”

Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks did not respond to The Stream’s request for comment about the ruling or the Trump campaign’s silence.

Pro-Life Criticisms

Trump’s silence has led to support, studious neutrality, and outright condemnation from pro-lifers.

“I met with Donald Trump last week in hopes of opening up a conversation about what matters to the pro-life movement,” Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins told The Stream shortly after criticizing Trump in a Washington Post op-ed. “He seemed to understand that appointing pro-life Justices to the US Supreme Court was of tantamount importance. However, when an opportunity comes to show off his pro-life credentials, we are still waiting for him to comment on the awful decision at the Supreme Court by five liberal Justices.”

“He is wasting an opportunity to connect with the very leaders that were all in that room last week and their constituents. Either Donald Trump doesn’t have the right personnel around him to make sure this is important or he just doesn’t care.”

David and Jason Benham were likewise critical in a statement to The Stream. “Conservatism is pretend salt — it acts like salt, smells like salt, and even seeks the vote of salt. But it’s not true salt. We cannot expect political leaders to faithfully engage the spiritual battle over shedding of innocent blood in our nation when many of our spiritual leaders refuse to address the issue from the pulpit, anyway. Donald Trump’s silence simply mirrors the silence of the church as a whole for the past 40+ years.”

Dean Nelson, a founding member of the Black Pro Life Coalition, told The Stream that he is “not surprised at [Trump’s] campaign’s silence.”

“I am not yet convinced that Donald Trump will be an advocate for the Pro Life movement,” explained Nelson. “In his last two opportunities before large influential evangelical audiences, his statements have been very brief with no mention of Planned Parenthood.”

“This is the biggest abortion decision that has come down in years and Hillary Clinton was quick to comment — was all over Twitter — and yet we heard crickets from Donald Trump,” Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance told The Daily Beast. “I’m still waiting. I’m still waiting. He needs to say something.”

Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Iowa Family, told The Daily Beast that he thinks Trump’s silence “gives all pro-life leaders pause. I think it gives all people that are looking for life as their issue, who are looking to support a presidential candidate — it gives them an unnecessary pause. There shouldn’t have to be a pause here. It could have been something that would have fueled potential support for Mr. Trump.”

Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson told The Stream that “Trump has always had plenty to say when it comes to making disparaging remarks regarding the physical appearance of women or insulting any candidate who dared to disagree with his lack of plans for our country. Yet, when it actually matters, he is silent … he has nothing to say. Over and over again, Trump has shown us that he is not the prolife knight in shining armor that many people have attempted to convince us that he is. He has been playing the prolife movement for the past year and will continue to do so until we actually hold his feet to the fire and demand better of him.”

Terry Schilling, Executive Director at American Principles Project, attended last week’s meeting. He told The Stream that it was “a missed opportunity” for Trump to go after Clinton, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. “The opportunity to attack Secretary Clinton for supporting the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down safety regulations on abortion clinics couldn’t have been more clear for Mr. Trump. Clinton campaigned in the 1990’s to make abortion ‘safe, legal, and rare.’ She now supports unsafe abortions and opposes regulations that safeguard the health and well being of mothers.”

Explaining and Defending Trump’s Silence

Not all pro-life leaders were so critical, however.

Like Hawkins, Nelson, the Benhams and Schilling, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman attended last week’s meeting. However, Newman told Bloomberg that Trump “doesn’t need to repeat himself.”

“He said he’d defund Planned Parenthood and put pro-life justices on the Supreme Court and that’s the cure. Right now, the judiciary is the problem,” said Newman.

Priests for Life National Director Father Frank Pavone likewise said in a statement that Trump’s promised actions are more important than his lack of words. “The Supreme Court case is worthy of commentary from all prominent Americans, but more important than having Mr. Trump say something about this decision is having him do something about it, like nominating pro-life judges and signing pro-life legislation, which he has already promised to do.”

And Clarke Forsythe, Senior Counsel with Americans United for Life, told The Huffington Post that Trump has to be put in context to Hillary Clinton.

“Donald Trump and his campaign are learning the issue. I have no reaction to his reaction. It’s a process,” he said, saying the Planned Parenthood-endorsed Clinton stands in “stark contrast to whatever Donald Trump does or doesn’t say.”

Hot Air’s Allahpundit asked whether evangelicals would leave Trump over his silence, noting that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is a leading Trump backer. The atheist blogger also said Trump’s politics make keeping silent a strategically wise decision:

No subject has caused Trump to step on his schwanz rhetorically more often, and more painfully, than abortion. This is a guy who’s praised Planned Parenthood repeatedly while also saying he’d sign a bill to defund it. He once described himself long ago as “very pro-choice,” then tried to prove how solidly pro-life he is now by floating criminal punishments for women who’d abort after Roe is ever overturned, even though few pro-life groups endorse that. Then he walked that back by claiming that we should probably leave abortion laws as they are for now — while also claiming that he believes abortion is murder. Ask him about SCOTUS’s abortion ruling and there’s no telling what might come out of his mouth. In fact, if you had to bet, you might wager that whatever he ended up saying would somehow manage to inadvertently piss off pro-choicers and pro-lifers. This is a rare case where even Trump seems to understand that silence is his wisest play.


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