Donald Trump Just Became The Most Extreme Anti-Choice Politician Out There

The Donald has really stepped in it now. (Does he still call himself that? It seems appropriately egotistical here.)

Ali Vitali, an embedded reporter for MSNBC covering Trump and the GOP, set off an avalanche of outrage by tweeting this today:

Trump said it in an exclusive interview with “Hardball’s” Chris Matthews — hardly a bastion of left-wing GOTCHA journalism and interviews. If Trump had just played it safe, the interview could have been a campaign commercial. But even Matthews couldn’t help himself here.

When Trump mentions being pro-life, Matthews presses him for a straight answer on punishment should abortion be outlawed saying, “This is not something you can dodge.” As reported at Bloomberg:

“I am pro-life,” Trump said. Asked how a ban would actually work, Trump said, “Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places but we have to ban it,” Trump said…

“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said. “For the woman?” Matthews asked. “Yeah,” Trump said, nodding.

Trump said the punishment would “have to be determined.”

While Bitch Media co-founder Ansi Zeisler might have nailed it here…

…after recovering from my LOLsob fit, I realized that today’s statements are easily the most out of step of any campaign so far. Trump just made all his opponents — including the personhood dudebros — look reasonable. The thing is, there are reasons why broaching the subject of what a woman’s punishment for having an abortion should be is simply not done–and why even they know it’s not a good look.

Anti-choicers tend to talk in generalities and never actually address what should happen to patients who attempt to access the theoretically illegal abortions of their administrations. Not because it diminishes those who have died having illegal abortions, or because it’s insulting to those who sit in prisons around the world as punishment, but because none of them can come up with a suitable answer.

While they may scream that doctors are murderers — hell, Oklahoma legislators just proposed a bill that would explicitly make abortion providers guilty of first-degree murder–the public faces of the “pro-life” movement always avoid explicitly addressing what the punishment would or should be within earshot of a microphone.

Suggesting patients be punished for having an abortion, no matter how vaguely it’s referenced, has always been off-limits territory for two very good reasons.

Firstly, the idea of outlawing abortion is actually EXTREMELY unpopular. 86% of voters — including 79% of Republicans (Uh oh!) even say they don’t think someone’s economic status should affect their access to abortion care. Which means they support legislation like the EACH Woman Act which would end insurance and federal funding bans on abortion.

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That legislation and the polling that goes with it came out like last summer; you’d think Trump could afford staffers to, like, know things.

But how sure am I that it’s not just carefully worded public opinion firms and desperate activists (as though we could afford to throw money at trying to prove shit that isn’t true) fabricating data like that All* Above All poll?

Well, there’s the fact that MORE THAN ONE QUARTER OF THE HOUSE — 117 representatives in red, purple, and blue states — are not just supporting the EACH Woman Act, they’ve signed on as cosponsors. In an election year. That is how sure they are that the position of affirming and expanding access to abortion is a winner.

The second reason is also extremely simple: your typical anti-choicer just hasn’t thought about concepts like punishment for the patient.

I can confidently say that Trump’s declaration today is out of step even with the extremists who picket at reproductive health clinics. I’ve spent years standing in front between patients and picketers having vitriol hurled at me, patients, and companions. I’ve even helped start new groups and am connected to many of the volunteers around the country through my non-profit advocacy. And I have absolutely witnessed the “compassionate” approach of “sidewalk counselors,” as they call themselves — the type of demonstrator interviewed by the AtCenterNetwork at a clinic in Libertyville, IL a few years ago.

When asked, “What should happen to women who have abortions?” picketers are surprised they are asked to consider the question — even though they are carrying gruesome, photoshopped signs of supposed aborted fetuses and advocating for outlawing abortion altogether.

Though the number of people in the segment is small, I recognize their reaction as fairly typical. The final on-camera interview references Joseph Scheidler — the founder of extremist group, The Pro-Life Action League. Leading a team of escorts at one of the Chicago clinics the PLAL regularly harassed lead to my being a target of theirs, spending all of Lent 2013 on a poster/internet meme, along with an abortion provider and another writer. I’m familiar with their tactics as well as their lack of answers on questions such as these. They honestly don’t know what to do when faced with the obvious logical repercussions of outlawing abortion: what consequences do you impose on those who break the law?

It’s true that the occasional extremist or splinter group appears like a grotesque caricature to demand that patients seeking or obtaining an abortion be sentenced to life in prison or even death. National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson declared on Twitter:

When asked by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs what exactly he felt should be the punishment, Williamson went old school:

As his tweets are still available a year and a half later, I’d say it’s safe to assume he meant it — along with the entire rest of the garbage in that thread.

Then, of course, there’s Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) — extremists among extremists in the anti-choice movement. Irin Carmon of MSNBC reported on their position — outlawing abortion, no exceptions for rape or health of the pregnant person — and their rhetoric two years ago. Standing outside an AHA protest at Norman High School in Norman, OK, Carmon asked one of the picketers “What do you think should happen to women who have abortions?” He didn’t skip a beat.

“When it’s made illegal, their death should be treated like the death of other people…We don’t want the laws about murder to be biased and only punish certain people,” he said, calmly looking Carmon — a woman — in the eye. “If a woman maliciously goes in and pays a hired assassin to rip the arms and legs off of their child, she should go to prison for that.”

Charming.

Trump is pandering to THOSE TWO GUYS. He already had a woman problem — among his many, many problems. And God help him, his opponent in the general is highly likely to be a — gasp! — woman.

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And it would be this woman:

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Of course, this could be a fleeting position from Trump who changes his mind seemingly more often than he changes his shirt — you know, when he manages to complete a sentence with a subject and a verb. I’ll be waiting along with my good friend Andrea Grimes for what tomorrow brings:

Katie Klabusich is a contributing writer for The Establishment and host of The Katie Speak Show on Netroots Radio. Her work can also be found at Rolling Stone, Truthout, RH Reality Check, and Bitch Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @Katie_Speak.