The RNC abortion equivocation

It was not remotely surprising to find that the word “abortion” does not appear a single time on the official 50-point agenda released by President Trump’s re-election campaign. It seemed of a piece somehow with the new irreligious social conservatism of the flag, QAnon, and pornography.

This omission was rectified on Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention when Abby Johnson, the anti-abortion activist and former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic, spoke at some length about the issue. Johnson (whose views on criminal justice are not uncontroversial) described, in horrifying detail, the reality of abortion: the sight of a helpless child in utero attempting to repel the device that will end its life, the smell of baby body parts, the callous humor of clinic employees.

But it is hard to escape the feeling that Johnson’s speech was out of place on Tuesday night. The theme of this convention over the last two evenings has been the basic decency and wholesomeness of American life. If only we could re-elect the president and get these pesky coronavirus restrictions out of the way, the participants have told us, the economy will “soar to new heights, heights never seen before,” as Eric Trump put it. Under such conditions we will be truly free, free to decide for ourselves the meaning of right and wrong, as another one of the president’s children said in an address worthy of an Anthony Kennedy opinion.

I, for one, cannot understand how these views are compatible. If you really believe that every abortion performed in this country is the state-sanctioned murder of a human being, it is hard to imagine why the mindless accumulation of wealth on computer screens would be of much comfort. This, I think, is why even though his emphasis was different, Trump’s earlier “American carnage” rhetoric was more attuned to the feelings of old-fashioned social conservatives. The gloom and pessimism were welcome.

Originally published: 2020-08-25 21:51:33

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