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September 29, 2020 / Memos

Be on the lookout for Trump’s wild, incendiary rhetoric about abortion that flies in the face of public opinion and medical science


Tonight’s presidential debate comes at a pivotal moment: Americans are already casting their ballots, but Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are ramping up efforts to jam through a U.S. Supreme Court nominee despite the fact that there is just over a month left until Election Day. The entire process is a sham and a grave blow to our democracy that comes in the midst of a series of stunning displays of failed leadership. A bombshell new report finds that Donald Trump evaded paying taxes for years, paying a measly $750 in both 2016 and 2017 as hard-working families pay many times more. And more than 200,000 Americans are dead thanks to Trump’s incompetence, mismanagement, and constant prioritizing of ideology over science in the face of a devastating pandemic.

And we know that when Trump is in trouble, he turns to his most extreme, Radical Right base for cover. As a result, we’ll be looking for ever-more-outlandish and incendiary claims about abortion during tomorrow night’s debate. 

Here are four key tactics we see Trump consistently turn to to be on the lookout for:

  • Attacking Democrats’ stance on Roe v. Wade as “extreme”

→ Trump tries to paint Democrats as extreme despite the fact that Biden’s support of reproductive freedom aligns with the 77% of Americans who support the right to abortion.

  • Using graphic terms to talk about abortion later in pregnancy 

→ Cruelly politicizing heartbreaking situations where something has gone terribly wrong in a pregnancy, Trump intentionally uses inflammatory and medically inaccurate language like “execution” and “ripped out of their mother’s womb” to distract from his many failures. 

  • Attacking Democrats by falsely claiming they are “anti-Catholic” or perpetuating “religious bigotry”

→ People of all faiths embrace reproductive freedom—questioning a judicial nominee’s policy views or record should not be conflated with or mistaken for attacking her faith. 

  • Disingenuous claims that Republicans are the party That cares about people because they’re “Pro-Life”  

→ Trump and his cronies claim they care about people because they oppose abortion, but this falsehood ignores their attacks on racial justice, immigrant rights, healthcare, and so much more: don’t fall for it!

For a fuller memo on these tactics and how Trump has deployed them in the past, click here. 

Given how we know Trump will likely pull out all the stops to rile up his base and muddy our public discourse, here are some key points to keep in mind:

Republicans, including Trump, must be asked follow-up questions when it comes to their stance on abortion and ending Roe v. Wade. Voters need to understand what world they’re working towards and what it means for people figuring out whether to start or grow their families or even a person or family who loses a pregnancy.

For instance: If abortion bans are upheld by the Supreme Court, how will they be enforced? Will people be thrown in jail for having an abortion or miscarriage? What kind of interrogation would somebody be subjected to in order to investigate how a pregnancy ended? Would somebody who had an abortion or who experienced a pregnancy loss serve jail time for it?

Use responsible and accurate language and include the voices of those with the most at stake in this conversation, including people who have been or could become pregnant and doctors who provide them care. Include public opinion information which makes clear that reproductive freedom is widely supported.  

NARAL Pro-Choice America just released Tell the Whole Story, a new initiative providing resources and sharing best practices to ensure fair, accurate, and inclusive coverage of abortion. NARAL has developed a comprehensive website featuring information and resources, as well as analyses on abortion coverage. It includes a glossary of recommended ways to contextualize or avoid loaded anti-choice terminology.

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Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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