Whenever I hear Donald Trump described as the most pro-life president ever, I think well then, I would not want to meet the runner-up.
Pro-lifers, and yes, I am one, do not debate which people are people. Or think of even the most remorseless criminals as less than human. “These are not people,” Trump has said of some of the immigrants being deported. “These are animals.” He’s frequently called gang members and school shooters and terrorists animals. (And he reportedly has no patience with animals.)
When some people are not people, well, anyone is eligible for demotion from humanity. The president’s 34-year-old son, Eric Trump, recently said this of Democrats: “To me, they’re not even people.”
That our commander in chief so cavalierly writes off whole wings of the human family — Mexicans and Muslims and any woman he sees as “sadly ... no longer a 10” — is a selling point for his base. (Miss Universe Alicia Machado? “Miss Piggy,” he called her. New York Times columnist Gail Collins? In his expert opinion, “a dog” with “the face of a pig.” He’s often called Rosie O’Donnell an animal.)
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You cannot value life and speak this way. Because, as the president said at the anti-abortion lobby Susan B. Anthony List’s recent gala, “We know that every life has meaning and that every life is totally worth protecting.” It does, and it is. Only, “every life” includes those of people from s---hole countries. It includes refugees, some of the most vulnerable people on this earth, of whom the president has said, “I guarantee you they are bad.”
I know how hard and thanklessly a lot of the people applauding Trump at that gala the other night have worked to protect unborn life. But it sickens me, strong as the pro-life movement has been in standing with the disabled, to hear them cheering a man who mocked a reporter’s physical challenge and called the Paralympics “tough to watch.” What’s tough for me to watch is the president claiming that “I pledged to stand for life. And as president, that’s exactly what I’ve done.” While attempting to rip up air and water regulations that hit poor and minority kids hardest? No.
“We celebrate all lives,” he said, after calling forward a darling, adopted 4-year-old girl who was born addicted to opioids. Except that trying to kill off Obamacare and cut Medicaid means a lot less addiction treatment for folks like the birth mom of that angel in the sparkly pink dress.
As usual, Trump marched off in a bunch of different directions in his 36 minutes at the microphone. He looked back on “one of the great victories of all time in politics” — his own, of course. He gave a “Go GOP” pep talk to the theoretically non-partisan group. And he preached the prosperity gospel, promising that “as long as we have ... confidence in our values and trust in our God, we will never, ever fail. Our nation will thrive, our people will prosper, and America will be greater than ever before.”
And when we betray our values, what happens then? Believers oppose abortion just as we oppose violence in all of its forms, except in self defense or in a just war, as a last resort. (Right? Hello?) For secular opponents of abortion — and there are many — it’s that you don’t have to believe in God to oppose violence. Trump’s dehumanizing rhetoric and inhumane actions, like separating children from their parents at the border, are the antithesis of that whole worldview. So if he’s the most pro-life, what does that make us?
This column first appeared in USA Today.