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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Trump, Bush 41, and Abortion Penalties

At Bloomberg, Kevin Cirilli reports on an MSNBC town hall:
“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.
Matthews then pressed Trump on whether he believes there should be punishment for abortion if it were illegal.
“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.”
I am writing a book on the 1988 election, so this story sparked a memory

The issue came up at the first debate between Bush and Dukakis (September 25, 1988).  Ann Groer of The Orlando Sentinel got to the point:
GROER: Yes. Mr. Vice President, I'd like to stay with abortion for just a moment if I might. Over the years you have expressed several positions, while opposing nearly all forms of government payment for it. You now say that you support abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or threat to a mother's life, and you also support a constitutional amendment that if ratified would outlaw most abortions. But if abortions were to become illegal again, do you think that the women who defy the law and have them anyway, as they did before it was okayed by the Supreme Court, and the doctors who perform them should go to jail?
BUSH: I haven't sorted out the penalties. But I do know, I do know that I oppose abortion. And I favor adoption. And if we can get this law changed, everybody should make the extraordinary effort to take these kids that are unwanted and sometimes aborted, take the - let them come to birth, and then put them in a family where they will be loved. And you see, yes, my position has evolved. And it's continuing to evolve, and it's evolving in favor of life. And I have had a couple of exceptions that I support - rape, incest and the life of the mother. Sometimes people feel a little uncomfortable talking about this, but it's much clearer for me now. As I've seen abortions sometimes used as a birth control device, for heavens sakes. See the millions of these killings accumulate, and this is one where you can have an honest difference of opinion. We certainly do. But no, I'm for the sanctity of life, and once that illegality is established, then we can come to grips with the penalty side, and of course there's got to be some penalties to enforce the law, whatever they may be.
AP reported the next day:
Bush's campaign chairman James A. Baker III, meanwhile, sought to deflect any repercussions from the vice president's assertion in the debate that he hadn't decided whether women who obtain abortions should face legal penalties.
Baker said Bush, an opponent of abortion, believes that only those who perform the operations, not the patients, should be prosecuted.

After stressing strong anti-abortion views during the debate, he said, Bush decided on further reflection that women who obtain abortions should be regarded as "additional victims" rather than criminals.

"After thinking about it overnight, we went in and discussed it this morning and concluded it was an issue that should be addressed and we addressed it," Baker told reporters.

Bush told a debate questioner that "I haven't sorted out the penalties" he would impose under a constitutional amendment he seeks to outlaw abortions.

". . . I'm for the sanctity of life and, once that illegality is established, then we can come to grips with the penalty side and, of course, there's got to be some penalties to enforce the law whatever they may be," Bush said.

Dukakis immediately responded that Bush was "prepared to brand a woman a criminal for making that decision. It's as simple as that."

That exchange left the issue an "open question" that needed to be clarified, Baker said.