Donald Trump announced today that he is forming a new “pro-life coalition” that will be led by Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List. Dannenfelser, who warned in January that Trump would not deliver on the anti-choice movement’s priorities of appointing like minded Supreme Court justices and defunding Planned Parenthood, has come around to Trump since he became the GOP nominee and began promising the anti-choice movement what it wanted.
Trump’s pick of Dannenfelser to head his campaign’s anti-abortion effort shows just how willing he is to hand his reproductive rights policy over to the anti-choice movement. Dannenfelser is a savvy political operative, but she has also been very clear about her ultimate goal: to criminalize abortion in America, without exception.
When the House passed a bill last year banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with a narrow exception for rape and incest survivors, Dannenfelser said that the bill’s rape exception was “regrettable” and “intellectually dishonest,” saying that she’d like to see all abortions banned at “any stage” of pregnancy. In a press conference, Dannenfelser said that although her group supported the legislation, “the rape exception is abominable.”
Dannenfelser has also held a hard line against abortion-ban exemptions for women whose health is at risk, saying in 2012 that her group would not support a candidate who supported health exceptions.
While Dannenfelser’s ultimate goal is to ban abortion without exception, she has said that the best way to achieve that goal is for anti-choice politicians to avoid discussing those exceptions. After Rep. Todd Akin made his infamous “legitimate rape” comment in 2013, the SBA list started training GOP lawmakers to avoid discussing why they want to withhold abortion rights from rape survivors.
Asked in 2015 what she thought it would take for GOP leaders to fully embrace a no-exceptions abortion policy, Dannenfelser responded, “It’s going to take winning.” She cited anti-choice victories in the 2014 elections where “we had unapologetic pro-life people who didn’t talk about rape and incest.”
During the GOP presidential primary, she attacked Republican candidates who criticized their opponents for holding no-exceptions policies. Earlier this year, her group targeted an anti-choice GOP congresswoman who had delayed a vote on the 20-week bill because she was concerned about a police reporting requirement in its rape exception.
Dannenfelser is also a fierce opponent of Planned Parenthood, saying last year that shutting the women’s health provider down would “liberate” its employees, “whose hearts are so calloused over.”
Later in 2015, Dannenfelser mocked Planned Parenthood’s “gender-based, grievance-oriented politics,” saying that “real women who truly love what womanhood really is” should also be concerned about “equal rights” for men in health care.
“I love men!” she declared. “What about men’s health? I mean, do we have anything to say about men’s health and the particular health problems that men have? Do we ever talk about the ‘men’s gap’ when we’re moving into an election?”
Dannenfelser, however, has been trying to claim the mantle of feminism for the anti-choice movement. The Susan B. Anthony List is named after the suffragist pioneer; Dannenfelser declared last year that “abortion-centered feminism is dead.”
In January, Dannenfelser signed a letter along with other female anti-choice leaders urging GOP primary voters to “support anyone but Donald Trump.” The group claimed both that Trump couldn’t be “trusted” to back them on abortion policy and that they were “disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular.”
Now, it seems, Trump has made enough promises to the anti-choice movement that Dannenfelser is satisfied on the first count and willing to overlook the second.