According to a candidate survey document available on the website of the anti-choice group National Pro-Life Alliance, President-elect Donald Trump responded to its 2016 candidate questionnaire by voicing his support for a number of anti-choice measures, including a federal “personhood” bill aimed at dismantling Roe v. Wade and banning all abortions—and possibly even some forms of birth control—without exceptions.
During his presidential campaign, Trump took a dizzying variety of often conflicting positions on abortion rights, but generally landed on saying that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, handing abortion rights decisions back to the states, and saying that he himself is “pro-life with exceptions.” Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, has sponsored “personhood” legislation in Congress.
The National Pro-Life Alliance (NPLA) has been working primarily with Sen. Rand Paul to promote the “Life at Conception Act,” which would attempt to dismantle Roe v. Wade by declaring that the Constitution’s protections apply beginning from “the moment of fertilization.” Advocates of this “personhood” strategy believe that there is a magic loophole in Roe v. Wade that would allow Congress to bypass the decision and outlaw abortion simply by declaring embryos and fetuses to be legal persons—an argument that is disputed even by many anti-choice attorneys.
NPLA seems to have done very little to promote its candidate survey with Trump before the election, only noting in an email to supporters yesterday—gathering signatures for a petition urging Trump to nominate “steadfast pro-life” justices to the Supreme Court—that Trump gave “one-hundred percent pro-life” answers to its survey before the election.
Sure enough, survey results available on NPLA’s website show that Trump answered “yes” to all nine questions the group posed to presidential candidates. According to the survey, Trump vowed to support abortion waiting periods, ultrasound requirements, and a ban on the distribution of abortion pills, and pledged to pick judicial nominees who will oppose abortion rights. According to NPLA, Trump also answered “yes” to supporting its central legislative goal, a federal “personhood” bill:
Would you support and cosponsor a Life at Conception Act defining that life begins at the moment of conception thereby resolving for all time, as stated by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, “the difficult question of when life begins?”
The group’s notes on the question make it clear what the purpose of the Life at Conception Act is:
When it handed down the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court admitted that if Congress established when life begins, the so-called “right” to an abortion would “collapse,” as unborn children would then be protected as “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Now, the burden is on Congress to establish that life begins at conception.
NPLA also says that Trump answered that he would support legislation to “remove from the federal courts jurisdiction over the question of abortion.”
If NPLA is right that Trump agreed to support “personhood” legislation, that would conflict directly with both his statements that he supports “exceptions” to abortion laws and that he simply wants to return abortion rights decisions to the states.