Yesterday, Donald Trump declared his endorsement of criminal punishment for women who obtained illegal abortions. Later backtracking with meagre footsteps from full-blown-misogynist to thinly-veiled-patriarch, the Republican presidential front-runner amended his statement, suggesting that it was the doctors performing the abortions who should be penalised, rather than the women undergoing the procedures themselves. Ah, Donald.
It’s frightening to me that I’m no longer surprised by this oppressive vitriol. I’ve come to expect from Trump toe-curling visions of America’s future which read like scenes lifted from The Handmaid’s Tale; women belittled, objectified, their reproductive rights not rights at all but decisions left in the hands of the man in charge.
But what is it he does, when he envisions an America where abortion is, first of all, illegal? He – and, it should be added, his fellow Republican candidates – take us back, back to the back alleys where millions of women risked and often lost their lives in desperate attempts to reclaim their right to self-government. Because, of course, illegal abortion had never meant no abortion: it has only meant unsafe ones. Coat hangers, knitting needles, bicycle spokes, turpentine, bleach. Thousands of infected, feverish, bleeding women filling the septic wards installed in almost every hospital across the US to treat them. A bleak America before Roe v. Wade.
But this was never a problem for Donald. It was never in his ball park to agonise over the decision to end a pregnancy; to put his body through immense physical and potentially emotional pain in order to retain control of his own life. It was never his problem to manage the weight of parenting either. Talking about the possibility of having more children he once said, “I like kids. I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply the funds and she’ll take care of the kids, right?” Big surprise – from where Trump’s standing, reproduction is no life-altering affair, so who’d abort? As author Frederica Mathewes-Green puts it, “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.” But here, we hear a man in power not just condemn this right to a choice he will never have to make, but go further still: advocate the criminal punishment of those who make it. In doing this, Trump stands before America’s women, as too many men have before him, and tells them that their bodies are not their own; that the decisions they make regarding their own health and happiness – no one else’s – may land them in jail. That’s the 1 in 3 pregnant American women who choose to abort incarcerated.
I don’t know what to say, Trump. At first it was enough to laugh in disgust at the man with the roadkill hair and offensively fake-tanned skin, but now the insidious venom hidden beneath is seeping out to poisonous effect and captivating a worrying portion of America’s electorate. In 2016, it’s easy to be disheartened by the misogyny that issues forth from Trump’s campaign but regression can only occur if we let it. In the face of his ridiculousity we must remember what we deserve and what our rights are. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum America – don’t let the bastards grind you down.