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Women protesting the misogyny of the Trump campaign outside of Trump Tower in New York City on October 12, 2016. (Photo: Laura Flanders Show/Twitter)

Trump's Abortion Stance Portends "Dark Days" for American Women

President-elect flippantly declares that after Roe v. Wade is overturned, women will have to "go to another state" to obtain abortions

Deirdre Fulton

In Donald Trump's America, women's constitutional right to an abortion is threatened.

"Our country now stands perilously close to a return to the dark days when women were forced to put their own lives at risk to get safe and legal abortion care."
—Nancy Northup, Center for Reproductive Rights

The president-elect made that clear in an interview Sunday night with "60 Minutes," in which he repeated his vow to appoint "pro-life" judges to the U.S. Supreme Court. Those judges, he said, could overturn the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade—which would in turn send the issue "back to the states." These statements echoed ones he made on the campaign trail and during the final presidential debate.

Interviewer Lesley Stahl followed up: "But then some women won't be able to get an abortion."

To which Trump responded: "Yeah, well, they'll perhaps have to go—they'll have to go to another state."

Watch the exchange below:

Confoundingly, Trump also asserted during the interview that the matter of same-sex marriage, decided by the court last year, "was already settled. It's law." Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

As Rewire wrote in 2015:

States like Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota already have laws on the books that would automatically criminalize abortion should the decision be overturned. Meanwhile, 11 other states, including Arkansas and Wisconsin, have pre-Roe laws criminalizing abortion that are still technically in effect and could be resuscitated following a reversal.

And Elisa Leilani Slattery explained in July in a blog for the Open Society Foundations:

Traveling long distances for abortions disproportionately harms young women, low-income women, women with precarious immigration status, and women with disabilities, for whom travel is prohibitively expensive, not physically possible, or an otherwise risky proposition. There's no way to measure the harm of forcing women to locate funds, arrange transportation, schedule childcare, and justify one's absence to employers, family, and partners—all with the clock ticking as abortions become more expensive and medically complex later in a pregnancy.  

But there's another, perhaps more insidious, aspect of burdensome travel that's even harder to quantify. It's a type of social exclusion through which women, however temporarily, are effectively banished from society. Some women's rights groups have begun to publicly acknowledge this, calling the practice "abortion exile."

Forcing women to leave their communities for abortions is isolating and degrading; it denies them their status as full and equal citizens. In interviews I've conducted in Ireland, women whose pregnancy had a fatal fetal anomaly said that being forced to travel at such a heartbreaking time made them feel as though their country had turned its back on them.

In the wake of Trump's election, women's health advocates promised to "hold the line" against the president-elect's dangerous anti-choice ideas and the groups emboldened by his victory.

Fortunately, Rewire noted on Monday, "[t]here is currently no case in the pipeline that directly challenges either Roe's holding that abortion is a fundamental right, or Planned Parenthood v. Casey's sloppy undue burden standard balancing that fundamental right against the state's interest in both fetal life and protecting patients. At the moment, there's also not a federal statute designed to prompt a potential challenge."

However, journalist Jessica Mason Pieklo continued:

Give the Trump administration and its Republican-controlled Congress just a smidge of time to get settled after this January, though, and I'd expect that to change. Conservatives have been eager to push 20-week "fetal pain" bills, dilation and evacuation bans, and even federal fetal "personhood." If enacted and then challenged by advocates in the courts, any one of those pieces of legislation could put the issue of abortion rights squarely before the Roberts Court—one re-settled to a 5-4 conservative, anti-choice majority.

"Make no mistake: Donald Trump's proposed policies pose a direct threat to the constitutional protections recognized by Roe v. Wade and resoundingly reaffirmed in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, last week. "Our country now stands perilously close to a return to the dark days when women were forced to put their own lives at risk to get safe and legal abortion care."

"President-elect Trump has publicly pledged to overturn Roe," she said, "and promised punishment for the one in three American women who will have an abortion in her lifetime. When a woman decides to end a pregnancy, she needs safe, high-quality care—not a prison sentence."

Also in the "60 Minutes" interview, Trump appeared to walk back slightly his campaign pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but said he would immediately deport or incarcerate 2-3 million "criminal" undocumented immigrants once he takes office in January.

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