A Philosopher's Blog

Trump & Abortion

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on October 14, 2016

The release of the 2005 tape of Trump apparently bragging about sexually assaulting women proved to be the final straw for some Republicans, most especially women Republicans. While it might seem inconceivable that Trump would have any female supporters left outside of his family, he has a few left. Some defend him by saying that they have heard men say worse. This not so much defends Trump as shows that there are other awful men out there—something that is obviously the case. This is analogous to defending a thief by pointing out that there are people who steal more than that thief does. This is hardly a good defense.

Outside of his family, one of Trump’s strongest female supporters is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, Marjorie Dannenfelser. She has penned an essay in support of Trump based on the claim that he will be a staunch supporter of the pro-life cause. She did, however, condemn Trump’s words in the tape during an interview with NPR in October, 2016. Backing Trump is a change of position for the Susan B. Anthony List. On January 26, 2016 the organization condemned Trump as unacceptable on grounds that seem quite reasonable given the group’s values. Specifically, concerns were expressed about his lack of commitment to the goals of the pro-life movement as they see it (overturning Roe v. Wade and defunding Planned Parenthood). Trump was also condemned for his treatment of women.

It is certainly tempting to dismiss Dannenfelser’s current view of Trump on the grounds that she held the opposite view in the recent past. However, this would be to commit the tu quoque fallacy. This fallacy occurs when it is inferred that what a person claims now is false because it is inconsistent with what they said in the past. While two inconsistent claims cannot both be true at the same time, their inconsistency does not show which claim is false (and both could be false). In the case at hand, the past claim was that Trump could not be counted on to support the pro-life cause and the current claim is that Trump can be counted on to do so. While both cannot be true at the same time, there still remains the question of which claim is true now.

As noted above, Dannenfelser has argued that Trump can be trusted to support the pro-life cause and will, if elected, act in ways that the Susan B. Anthony List would approve, such as defunding Planned Parenthood and appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. From a logical standpoint, the question is whether there is adequate evidence to believe that the Trump who was condemned on January 26, 2016 has changed substantially on policy so that he is, in fact, the Trump that she claims he is today. Alternatively, it could be contended that the SBA List was wrong about Trump then and is right about him now.

Since Trump has never held any office, there is no record of actual public policy actions in his past regarding abortion or anything else. As such, the only evidence that he means what he says now is that he is saying it and claims he means what he says. Since candidates routinely say what they believe will get them elected, there is an obvious credibility concern in play here. It is, of course, possible that Trump’s views changed since January—people do change their minds. But, there seems to be a dearth of evidence regarding his commitment to the pro-life cause and willingness to act upon his claims. This is especially worth considering in the face of past promises by politicians on these maters.

Dannenfelser and others who are dedicated to the pro-life cause can also make an argument in favor of Trump by contrasting him with Hillary Clinton. Clinton does have an established record as being pro-choice and it is almost certain that anyone she would appoint to the Supreme Court would uphold Roe v. Wade. She is also favorably inclined towards Planned Parenthood. Since Trump and Hillary are the only viable options, and Hillary is clearly pro-choice, then Trump would seem to be the only viable choice for someone choosing between the two on the basis of the abortion issue. As such, Dannenfelser’s backing of Trump makes sense in the context of the issue of abortion.

While Trump has claimed he supports the anti-abortion cause, the SBA List also condemned Trump on the grounds that he treats women poorly. Dannenfelser did condemn what Trump said in the 2005 tape, but gave reasons as to why anti-abortion people should back Trump over Hillary. Dannenfelser accepts that Trump has moral problems in regards to how he treats women. She counters this by contending that Bill Clinton’s past misdeeds and Hillary Clinton’s role in criticism the women involved shows that Hillary Clinton also has moral problems in regards to how she treats women. Because of this alleged moral equivalence in regards to their treatment of women, this factor cannot be used to pick between them. As such, other factors must be used to justify picking one over the other. For Dannenfelser, the decisive issue is that of abortion and, as noted above, she claims that Trump’s expressed views match her own. Thus, Trump is the rational choice for her.

Dannenfelser is right in terms of her method: if two candidates are equivalent in regards to one factor, then that factor cannot warrant picking one over the other. To use an analogy, if a person is picking between two SUVs and they have the same poor gas mileage, then that factor would provide no rational basis for picking one SUV over the other. The decision would need to be based on other factors, such as safety or features.

There is, however, the question of whether or not Trump and Hillary are morally equivalent in regards to their treatment of women. On the face of it, Hillary seems to have a far better record than Trump—even if she did attack some of the women involved with Bill, her behavior does not seem to be as bad as Trump’s. There is also the fact that Hillary seems to be a fairly consistent supporter of women in regards to a broad array of issues and in regards to policy. Trump, of course, has no public policy track record—all that can be presented as evidence is what he has said and what he has done as a person and a businessman. If Hillary is not morally as awful as Trump, then this would provide grounds for picking Hillary over Trump on the matter of the treatment of women.

Even if it is accepted that Hillary is not as morally awful as Trump, then this need not be decisive. This is because other factors can obviously be of equal or greater concern. As such, if someone regards a candidate’s expressed position on abortion as being the determining factor, then it would still be rational for her to vote for him even if she regarded Trump as morally worse than Hillary. This would require having faith in Trump’s commitment to the anti-abortion cause. Since abortion is a moral issue, there is a certain irony in putting trust in the moral commitment of a person who is regarded as morally awful even by many of his supporters. That said, Trump has (like so many politicians before him) claimed that he backs the anti-abortion cause and this provides those who regard abortion as the decisive issue with rational grounds for picking one candidate over the other.

11 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 14, 2016 at 8:56 am

    The anti-abortion folks are stuck on the GOP plantation. They would vote for Satan if he said he opposed abortion.

  2. ronster12012 said, on October 14, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Michael
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………….
    “The release of the 2005 tape of Trump apparently bragging about sexually assaulting women proved to be the final straw for some Republicans, most especially women Republicans.”
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………
    What exactly was this ‘sexual assault’? All I heard was a man talking about fucking women….I never heard him say that he raped them.He did say that he hit on them hard, but I am sure you know that hitting on a woman (figuratively, not literally speaking) is no crime, and if they had sex it is just a woman exercising her autonomy.
    As men and women are equal(supposedly, at least according to current Newthink doctrine)then to suggest that she was somehow wronged is just sexist nonsense. And if she wasn’t wronged then how can he be wrong or awful or anything at all…?

    ………………………………………………………………………………..
    “While it might seem inconceivable that Trump would have any female supporters left outside of his family, he has a few left. Some defend him by saying that they have heard men say worse. This not so much defends Trump as shows that there are other awful men out there—something that is obviously the case. This is analogous to defending a thief by pointing out that there are people who steal more than that thief does. This is hardly a good defense.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………

    Entire paragraph of nonsense. As he has committed no crime(unlike the other candidate)there is no case to answer, unless getting people’s knickers in a twist about nothing is a crime. All this talk about him and other similarly “awful men’ is just virtue signaling going into hyperdrive.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………..
    “Even if it is accepted that Hillary is not as morally awful as Trump, then this need not be decisive. This is because other factors can obviously be of equal or greater concern. As such, if someone regards a candidate’s expressed position on abortion as being the determining factor, then it would still be rational for her to vote for him even if she regarded Trump as morally worse than Hillary. ”
    ………………………………………………………………………………………

    How anyone can suggest that Trump is morally worse than Hillary is completely beyond me. For all his faults he is not even in the same league as her. Trump has committed no crimes, unlike Hillary. Trump has committed no war crimes unlike Hillary(eg. Libya), nor has he compromised national security, private email server (crime), destroyed evidence(another crime)helped to further corrupt your FBI(Comey letting her skate), as well as threatening rape victims of her husband. Absolutely no contest….

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 14, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      Well, he talked about kissing them and grabbing their genitals without consent. I’m no lawyer, but that sounds like talking about sexual assault.

      • TJB said, on October 14, 2016 at 3:20 pm

        Mike, below is the transcript. Do you see where he says “And when you’re a star they let you do it?” If they let him do it then it is consensual.

        I’m not a Trump fan but I do believe in getting one’s facts right.

        TRUMP: “I moved on her. Actually, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f*** her. She was married.”

        BUSH: “That’s huge news.”

        TRUMP: “Nancy [O’Dell – former co-host of Access Hollywood], no this was… and I moved on her. Very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture’. I took her… I moved on her like a b****. I couldn’t get there and she was married. And all of a sudden I see her. She’s now got the big phoney t*** and she’s totally changed her look.”

        BUSH: “Sheesh, your girl’s hot as sh**. In the purple.”

        TRUMP: “Whoa! Yes! Whoa!”

        BUSH: “Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!”

        [cross talk]

        BUSH: ” It better not be the publicist. No it’s her, it’s…”

        TRUMP: “Yeah that’s her in the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs [breath fresheners] just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”

        BUSH: “Whatever you want.”

        TRUMP: “Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”

      • TJB said, on October 14, 2016 at 3:28 pm

        I seem to remember Richard Dawkins kissing every female on “Family Feud.” It looked to me like they were enjoying it, although there were probably a few who didn’t like it.

      • ronster12012 said, on October 16, 2016 at 12:50 am

        Michael

        We don’t know if it was without consent. Consent can be granted in many ways, and in sexual or more generally interpersonal matters is not granted formally. When was the last time a woman formally said to you ” I hereby grant you permission to engage in sex with me, with all the usual disclaimers until I either withdraw consent or we have both got our rocks off” Nah, it never happens like that. A look, a smile, a glance, or body language etc. An absence of protest = consent.

        As Donald is a rich, alpha male, many(not all) women are biologically programmed to seek sex with him. As is quite obvious, men are programmed to seek beauty, women are programmed to seek power, which is why in the absence of culturally enforced monogamy, a few men will end up with harems and the rest none.

  3. TJB said, on October 14, 2016 at 9:55 am

  4. TJB said, on October 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Here is Hillary chortling about taking a life. Mike, your moral compass is seriously damaged.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 14, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      I never claimed that Hillary is lawful good; I’m actually on tape claiming she is lawful evil. But, I’ll take lawful evil over neutral evil.

  5. TJB said, on October 14, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Trump is dead. Mike is like the pet shop owner in the classic video.


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