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In early June, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (“the gay wedding cake case”) soaked up most of the Supreme Court decision media limelight, even though (or perhaps because) the court’s ruling doesn’t really dispose of the major issues in the case. Another case, also not decided on its merits, got much less attention. But that case reveals conflicting priorities in, and signals from, the Trump administration.
In Hargan v. Garza, a pregnant teen immigrant (“Jane Doe”) in federal detention was forbidden by Trump administration policy to procure an abortion (at her own expense or with voluntary assistance from others, not on the taxpayers’ dime). SCOTUS dismissed the matter as “moot” because Doe’s supporters took her to a clinic for the procedure in the middle of the night, after a supportive lower court ruling and before the federal government could appeal that ruling.
President Donald Trump has spent considerable time railing against, and his administration has tirelessly worked to find, detain, and deport, immigrants who don’t get permission slips from politicians before coming here to enrich America’s culture and boost its economy. In particular, we’ve heard plenty of invective from Trump about “chain migration,” “anchor babies” and “birthright citizenship.”
When it comes to abortion, on the other hand, Trump has been much less consistent. He went from sponsoring the National Abortion Rights Action League (1989) to declaring himself “very pro-choice” (1999), to suddenly becoming ardently “pro-life” during his failed first presidential campaign (for the Reform Party’s 2000 nomination; he dropped out when he realized he was going to lose to Pat Buchanan, from whom he’s shamelessly cribbed ever since). But as late as 2016, he opined to CBS that “at this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”
Trump’s position on immigration is seemingly long-held and consistent. Consistently wrong, but consistent. His position on abortion, though, is transparently political and changes as politics requires.
Hargan v. Garza tells us which side Trump really thinks his bread is buttered on: The politics as usual, grease the squeaky pro-life wheel side. His administration holds, as a matter of policy so important that it deserves escalation to the Supreme Court if necessary, that pregnant immigrants absolutely, positively, must be forced to deliver shiny new “birthright citizens,” even if they’re willing to pay for their own abortions.
I wonder what his “build the wall, deport them all” base thinks about that?
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.