Evangelicals won't be bothered by Trump's abortion gambit — they know he's lying

Project 2025 makes it clear: The plan is a national abortion ban, even if by executive order

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published April 9, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Trump supporters pray as they await the arrival of President Donald Trump at Latrobe Airport on September 3, 2020 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Trump supporters pray as they await the arrival of President Donald Trump at Latrobe Airport on September 3, 2020 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

On Monday, with great fanfare, Donald Trump released his "plan" on abortion in a video posted to Truth Social. As with most things Trump says, the short statement was an avalanche of lies. He claims overturning Roe v. Wade was "about will of the people." In reality, strong majorities of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court's actions. He claims "all legal scholars" on "both sides" wanted to repeal Roe, another lie. Most legal scholars, except far-right ones, agree the right to privacy is justified by the Constitution but that such a dramatic reversal of precedent is bad law. He claimed, as he does routinely now, that Democrats want abortion "after birth," a vile lie that has become normalized through brute repetition. But the most consequential deceit is from Trump implying — but notably never actually saying — he's on the "leave it to the states" bandwagon. 

"My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint" Trump said, which was another lie, most people wanted Roe to stay. "The states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land."

As sharp observers noticed (which most mainstream media missed), Trump's language here is descriptive of the current state of play and avoids committing to any future action or inaction. Trump is usually sloppy with language, but as Jordan Weissman of Semafor points out, whoever wrote this statement carefully did so to leave the impression Trump is saying he will leave it to the states — but in fact, he leaves the door open to signing a national abortion ban. 

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Matt Gertz of Media Matters correctly criticized the press for leaving "pro-choice swing voters with the false impression that he is more moderate than he actually is." As he points out, Trump sidestepped the question of what he plans to do if he's in the White House. That's because he plans to ban abortion nationwide. 

They know Trump will do whatever they ask of him, which is why they aren't sweating this whole thing where he pretends to be moderate to sucker the mainstream press.

Despite all his word games, Trump has never believed there's a legal reason to avoid a national ban. Before they settled on this cleverly dishonest video, his campaign was leaking trial balloons to the press about considering a 15- or 16-week ban. As the Washington Post reported, "as president, he backed a national 20-week ban." So he's lying when he claims to believe this "shouldn’t be a federal issue." 

But most telling is the muted response on the Christian right. The anti-abortion group SBA List said they were "disappointed," but promised to "work tirelessly" to elect Trump in 2024 and that "he will get there" on a national ban.  Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued the Dobbs case before the Supreme Court that ended Roe, completely ignored Trump's statement. Americans United For Life, Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, Turning Point USA: All loudmouthed fundamentalist groups, all angrily anti-abortion, and all responded with either silence, or in some cases, eager support to Trump's video. Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, a longstanding anti-feminist group, seemed confident Trump will stick by the forced childbirth cause. 

That's because they all know it's a crock, and Trump will sign any abortion ban a Republican-controlled Congress passes. Moreover, they all know that, if he gets into the White House, Trump will abuse executive powers to create a backdoor ban on most, if not all abortion, by using the defunct-but-never-repealed Comstock Act to legally persecute those who transport drugs or materials that are used in abortions. They know he will do this, because they are all involved in developing the plan to do so, through Project 2025

For those still unaware, Project 2025 was created by a coalition of MAGA forces, including all these Christian right groups, to draft the blueprint for Trump to use to destroy rule of law and force an authoritarian agenda on the nation if he gets back into power. They are especially keen on abusing presidential powers to impose a Christian nationalist worldview, complete with abortion bans, reversal of LGBTQ rights, and a crackdown on sex education and contraception usage. They know Trump will do whatever they ask of him, which is why they aren't sweating this whole thing where he pretends to be moderate to sucker the mainstream press. 

As Melissa Gira Grant wrote at the New Republic, "On January 20, 2025, conservatives plan to resurrect a 150-year-old defunct law to ban abortion across the nation." And as she notes, "This is not a secret plan—far from it." It's published and heavily talked about in right-wing circles. Two Supreme Court justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, unsubtly championed this during arguments in the recent case, still pending, involving the abortion pill. While the Trump campaign claims, "Project 2025 does not speak for President Trump," every sign suggests that their 900-page playbook will be adopted by a Trump White House since the leaders of Project 2025 served in his first administration and likely would control a second. 

Trump and his allies are clowns, but they are nonetheless deft manipulators of the media. They know how to hide the plans to implement draconian abortion bans in plain sight. The problem with the Comstock Act, an 1873 law that they plan to use to arrest people shipping drugs or materials necessary for safe abortion, is that explaining what it is, why it's still on the books, and how this will work is complicated and confusing. So mostly, the press avoids that. But a Trump video where he implies — but never actually promises — to leave it to the states feels simple. So the latter gets oodles of extremely misleading coverage, while the truth — that Trump's team has a fully fleshed-out plan to ban abortion — is largely ignored. 

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As journalist Sarah Posner, an expert on the religious right's control of Trump's agenda, explained on Bluesky, "Trump *intends* to muddy the waters, not clarify his position. We already know his position. He wanted Dobbs because the base did. He'll do a national ban because the base wants it."

There are many ways Trump's intention to pass a national ban could manifest. If Republicans control Congress, they'll just pass a national ban and he will sign it. (Which he does not deny in this video, a point worth repeating.) If Republicans can't get the votes for a national ban, the Project 2025 scheme shows how he'll do it through executive action. It will start with directing federal law enforcement to arrest people who mail abortion pills. If that sticks, he'll rapidly expand to prosecuting pharmacies and medical suppliers who ship drugs and devices to doctors to use in abortions. Eventually,  the same legal framework will be used to go after contraception. MAGA leaders are already prepping their base to believe birth control bans are a good thing.  

It sounds dystopian, and one can hear the critics dismissing it as hyperbole. But people said the same thing about those of us who predicted Trump would attempt a coup if he lost in 2020, and that's exactly what he did. A lot of lower information voters don't believe Trump would really ban abortion, because, they believe, he's probably paid for a few in his time. (More likely: He promised to pay, but reneged after the fact.) But that is missing the point. Trump doesn't care about passing laws he himself wouldn't follow, since he already rejects following the law now. 

In many ways, Trump's reputation as a cad and an adulterer makes him even more obliged to pay back the Christian right with draconian abortion bans. After all, evangelicals had to swallow a lot of grief from the press and from liberals, who constantly point out how hypocritical it is for their community to back Trump, a man who has clearly never cracked a Bible, even as he sells them. They're going to feel Trump owes them even more if they secure him the White House because their investment came at such a high price. And there is no prize more precious to the religious right than a nationwide ban on abortion. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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