Marriage Equality ‘Settled’ but Abortion Isn’t: Trump Contradicts on ‘60 Minutes’

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Donald and Melania Trump
Donald and Melania Trump. (Photo: CBS via Getty Images)

In an interview on Sunday night with CBS News’ 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, Donald Trump discussed reproductive rights explicitly for the first time since being elected the 45th president of the United States.

In reply to Stahl’s question about whether he will follow through on his campaign promise to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling by the Court that made abortion legal — and the right to abortion care access a constitutionally protected right — on a federal level, Trump replied that his appointees would, in fact, be “pro-life” and that “if [Roe] were overturned, it would go back to the states.”

Stahl followed up by clarifying that if this chain of events were to happen, “some women won’t be able to get an abortion,” to which Trump eventually conceded that, should Roe be overturned and abortion access be legally defined by each individual state in the U.S., women will “perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state.”

“And that’s OK?” Stahl asked. “Well, we’ll see what happens,” Trump replied. “It’s got a long way to go.”

But later in the interview, Stahl asked Trump about whether he supported marriage equality.

Tiffany, Donald Jr., Donald, Eric, Melania, and Ivanka Trump
The Trumps, from left: Tiffany, Donald Jr., Donald, Eric, Melania, and Ivanka. (Photo: CBS via Getty Images)

The president-elect answered, “It’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done,” thus setting up an odd logical paradigm by which some things previously addressed by the Supreme Court, like abortion access, are left open to challenge while other things, like marriage equality, are defined as resolved because of a previous Supreme Court ruling.

“Obviously, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for over forty years,” Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney in the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Project. “In that case, the Supreme Court declared that the right to abortion is a fundamental constitutional right. Lower courts have chipped away at this right, but the Supreme Court has upheld that abortion is a core constitutional right in other landmark cases like Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt just this past June. It’s baffling, to say the least, that there’s any distinction between those rulings that establish the constitutional right to abortion and Obergefell v. Hodges, which upholds marriage equality.”

“The suggestion by President-Elect Trump that women can simply travel to another state to get the care the need shows a fundamental lack of empathy with women and their lives,” Amiri continues. “Mr. Trump and his family might be able to jet off across the country when they need medical care, but most of us can’t. And the consequences will be dire. Women’s lives suffered before Roe was decided and they will suffer again if it is overturned.”

Amiri also notes that while the Whole Woman’s Health decision earlier this year was decided with a 5-3 majority on the Supreme Court, it’s essential to remember that that case dealt with the legality of restrictions on abortion access for women in Texas, whereas a potential legal challenge to overturn Roe would be about the overall legality of abortion everywhere.

And yet, she says, “We don’t know what Chief Justice Roberts might say [in the face of such a challenge], so we need to be cautious about trying to forecast even if Trump gets to appoint more than just Scalia’s seat to the Court….But we are here to defend constitutional rights like we have for the past 100 years, through multiple presidencies. We stand ready for whatever comes to ensure that women will be able to get the care they need.”

“I think that overturning Roe is a real problem, no matter what,” Jamila Taylor, PhD, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy think tank, tells Yahoo Beauty, “This is something that has been in place for forty years and to assume the highest public office in the country and say you’re going to repeal it is problematic on various levels. We’re talking about taking away a basic health care service for women, and especially young women, and that could be really harmful to their health.”

Taylor continues, “The problem is that while abortion is legal and safe for the most part in the U.S., it’s hard to access, especially for low-income women and women of color. My worry is that in places where abortion is already hard to access, you’re going to have women in situations where they’ll be taking desperate measures to terminate a pregnancy. We’re going to leave women without a choice. There are going to be women without access to abortion, clear, point blank, and simple. And we also can’t lost sight that [Indiana Governor] Mike Pence is Donald Trump’s vice president-elect. His record on women’s health is probably one of the worst we’ve seen in any elected official — and not only on women’s rights, but on LGBT rights.”

Many people on social media were confused with this seeming judicial double standard by the incoming president.

And many were concerned about what Trump’s comments seemed to explicitly imply about the treatment and rights of women as a demographic during the upcoming Trump administration.

“President-elect Trump’s call again last night to overturn Roe v. Wade made a mockery of his statement that no one respects women more than him,” Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America tells Yahoo Beauty. “Inherent in his position is a disdain for our autonomy, our dignity, our health, our families, and our economic security. Forcing women to travel across state lines to access basic health care is remarkably cynical and dismissive of the real burdens such a policy would force on millions of Americans. Not even a week after his election, Trump has made it clear that his views on abortion aren’t about helping women or protecting life: they’re about punishing us for exercising autonomy over our own bodies.”

Daniel Grossman, MD, is the Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a program within the University of California-San Francisco Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and the University of California-San Francisco’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Services. He explains to Yahoo Beauty that the recent research done in collaboration with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) made “pretty clear that when women face these obstacles in terms of needing to travel long distances or whether existing clinics in states can even handle the demand as other clinics close, as both these geographic and capacity barriers increase, it’s harder for women to get the care they need.”

Grossman notes that in the research done in Texas following the implementation of the state’s since-overturned HB2 law that imposed a number of restrictions on abortion access, the abortion rate in the state overall decreased significantly while the number of second trimester abortions across the state increased. Interviews done with women in Texas showed that the time and money spent by women seeking abortion care to find a clinic, arrange for transportation, arrange for time off of work or school, and arrange for childcare all pushed their timeline for getting an abortion later, frequently into the second trimester.

“The other concern is that women will decide to try things on their own when they face all these barriers to access to clinic-based care,” Grossman says. Grossman again points to research done with TxPEP that showed that following the implementation of HB2, women reported barriers to access to clinic-based care being one of the main motivating factors in driving them to self-attempt abortion. While there is not clear data showing that self-induced abortion increased in Texas after restrictive laws on abortion access were put into place, the stories women shared with researchers indicating that many of the women who did self-induce did not do so with dangerous methods.

And yet, this does not necessarily bode well for American women nationwide should an overturn of Roe v. Wade translate into women facing great challenges, and physical distances, in accessing abortion care.

Grossman explains that many of the Texas women who reported attempted self-induced abortion said they did so with misopostol, a drug that can safely initiate an abortion in early pregnancy, bought in Mexico.

“But Texas is very different than states further from the Mexican border,” Grossman says. “If access to abortion is restricted in places where there is not close access to misopostol, women might use more dangerous things like inserting things into the uterus to end pregnancy. That’s something we’re very concerned about.”

He also points to the Turnaway Study for its findings on how women forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term face worse mental health outcomes than those able to access a desired abortion and adds that the health risks of childbirth are higher than the those associated with abortion. Furthermore, he adds, “It’s a crazy comparison, but the risk of death in driving a car for 800 miles or higher is higher than the risk of death associated with abortion, so women are at risk by having to travel farther.”

Taylor notes that overturning Roe would make abortion “virtually inaccessible” for low income women and women of color, “women who need access to the full array of reproductive healthcare to lead productive lives. Women with the means, who have the funds to afford abortion or to travel will be the ones who can access this medical service, while women without the means, largely low income women and women of color, will be the most harmed. It’s not just about health. It’s about economic implications as well. This is about productivity. Women need access to the full array of reproductive healthcare to live successful lives, and [Trump] is not thinking about that.”

“Roe v. Wade made safe, legal abortion the law of the land. That is also settled law,” says Lizz Winstead, founder of Lady Parts Justice. “And yet Donald Trump so cavalierly suggests pregnant people can just ‘Travel to another state’ to access one.”

“One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. With that many people needing access and so few clinics left to service them, his comments show how it is not in his DNA to consider the burden, especially on poor people and people of color,” she adds.

Which is why many women are already making it known how they will not be oppressed.

Sarah Sophie Flicker, an activist and the creative director of Art Not War and Humanity for Progress (formerly Humanity for Hillary), tells Yahoo Beauty that in light of Trump’s comments, activists are best served right now by coming together.

“Create mini villages of mobile activists,” she says. “We gave to stay angry, embrace the fear and, most of all, center the most vulnerable. Rally around them. The abortion battle will be on a state-by-state basis. We will likely have to create underground railroads of safe places, safe homes, safe clinics and safe states. And we will have to be organized, tactical, vigilant, and ready. I see this movement led by women. Women have always shouldered this movement. Women with families. Women without families. Putting our shoulders to the wheel.”

Flicker adds that “in the meantime, while gathering your people, support Sister Song, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, and Lady Parts Justice, to name a few.”

“The Trump campaign has built itself on divisions in American society,” says Taylor, “There is real concern. We’ve made so many gains in terms of women’s healthcare, specifically in the Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health and seeing more access to contraception and well woman’s care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — and that may be taken away and now Roe v. Wade may be overturned. Women are very nervous about this administration and this dark cloud it is bringing over our issues. But I am hopeful because women are organizing and they’re angry. They are going to fight for the services the deserve like abortion, contraception, healthcare, to parent their families with dignity and have livable wages. Women are going to organize. We’re not going to go down without a fight.”

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