Trump Says He’d Let States Surveil Pregnancies So They Can Prosecute Women for Violating Abortion Bans

Donald Trump's new interview with Time magazine underscores the bleak consequences of what it really means to "leave abortion to the states."

Trump Says He’d Let States Surveil Pregnancies So They Can Prosecute Women for Violating Abortion Bans

Donald Trump’s new interview with Time magazine underscores the bleak consequences of what it really means to “leave abortion to the states.”

Faced with questions about whether he’d enact a nationwide abortion ban, Trump has been running around claiming that he thinks abortion should be left to the states—but also criticizing state bans he considers too extreme, like those in Florida and Arizona. It’s a totally incoherent stance: Does he support states’ rights or not? He’s likely triangulating because he doesn’t want political blowback for laws that voters think are too extreme. But in a new interview, Trump blessed the most extreme effort states could take: Arresting women and pregnant people who have abortions in violation of state law.

Time magazine’s Eric Cortellessa spoke to Trump earlier this month and asked him how he’d govern if he wins the presidency in November. The reporter pressed Trump on abortion laws at both the state and federal level, given Trump’s Truth Social video where he seemed to suggest that he wouldn’t support federal legislation banning abortion, but also didn’t say he would veto such bills. Cortellessa wrote that Trump “decline[d] to commit to vetoing any additional federal restrictions if they came to his desk.” So there’s that!

Then Cortellessa asked Trump specifically about whether states could monitor pregnancies and prosecute women who they believe have gotten abortions despite state bans, rather than just doctors who might provide them. Trump said states might arrest women and it’s their prerogative—but he’s staying out of it.

Here is that section of the transcript, which Time published separately:

You think this issue should be left to the states. You’ve made that perfectly clear. Are you comfortable if states decide to punish women who access abortions after the procedure is banned? 
Trump: Are you talking about number of weeks?

Yeah. Let’s say there’s a 15-week ban—
Trump: Again, that’s going to be—I don’t have to be comfortable or uncomfortable. The states are going to make that decision. The states are going to have to be comfortable or uncomfortable, not me.

Do you think states should monitor women’s pregnancies so they can know if they’ve gotten an abortion after the ban?
Trump: I think they might do that. Again, you’ll have to speak to the individual states. Look, Roe v. Wade was all about bringing it back to the states. And that was a legal, as well as possibly in the hearts of some, in the minds of some, a moral decision. But it was largely a legal decision. Every legal scholar, Democrat, Republican, and other wanted that issue back at the states. You know, Roe v. Wade was always considered very bad law. Very bad. It was a very bad issue from a legal standpoint. People were amazed it lasted as long as it did. And what I was able to do is through the choice of some very good people who frankly were very courageous, the justices it turned out to be you know, the Republican—

States will decide if they’re comfortable or not— 
Trump: Yeah the states—

Prosecuting women for getting abortions after the ban. But are you comfortable with it? 
Trump: The states are going to say. It’s irrelevant whether I’m comfortable or not. It’s totally irrelevant, because the states are going to make those decisions. And by the way, Texas is going to be different than Ohio. And Ohio is going to be different than Michigan. I see what’s happening.

This is 2016’s “there has to be some form of punishment” all over again, so it’s only a matter of time until he attempts to backtrack.

Authoritarian governments monitoring pregnancies is, unfortunately, not a new idea. Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu imposed a total abortion ban from 1966 to 1989, enforced by compulsory gynecological exams and pregnancy tests. Justice Clarence Thomas’ sugar daddy Harlan Crow has a statute of Ceausescu in his garden of dictators. (Crow also allegedly has a Nazi memorabilia collection, including two paintings by Adolf Hitler and a signed copy of “Mein Kampf.”) Romania’s law, Decree 770, banned birth control as well, and Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe that he believed the justices should overturn Griswold v. Connecticut, the case that established the right to use contraception.

Back to Trump’s interview, a reporter with access finally asked Trump about the Comstock Act, a dormant 19th-century law that conservative activists want him to enforce that would ban the mailing of abortion pills, and potentially all supplies to abortion clinics. Trump said he would make a statement on abortion pills and the Comstock Act within one to two weeks, but these interviews were done more than two weeks ago. (In a follow-up call on April 27, Trump told Cortellessa: “I’ll be doing it over the next week or two. But I don’t think it will be shocking, frankly.”) I guess we get to wait and see.

Overall, the interview shows that Trump is fine with states doing whatever they want on abortion, even if that includes tracking people’s pregnancies and investigating them for miscarriages. This is the hell that follows the demise of Roe, an accomplishment of which Trump is very proud.

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