Before Trump was President-elect, he was just another reality TV star with pro-choice views on reproductive health. "I believe it is a personal decision that should be left to the women and their doctors," he told Associated Press in December 1999. Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press in the same year, Trump described himself as "very pro-choice… I just believe in choice."
Nearly two decades on, Trump's position on reproductive health has evolved to reflect the expediencies of seeking political office. During his presidential campaign, Trump pledged to punish women who get abortions and spouted garbage lies about late-term abortions in the second presidential debate. It's no surprise that when he was voted into office, women around the world responded viscerally, as if doubled over with E. coli poisoning.
In his first interview since winning the presidency, Trump outlined his views on abortion rights in a CBS 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl. Filmed in his New York City penthouse, seated on a gilt-edged chair under a Baroque-style ceiling mural featuring an enormous crystal chandelier, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to disenfranchising poor American women from their basic reproductive rights.
"I'm pro-life. The judges will be pro-life," Trump says, referring to his decision to appoint anti-abortion Supreme Court Justices to the bench. When questioned if he'll repeal Roe v. Wade, the president-elect blusters, "Having to do with abortion—if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states."
Stahl asks if that means that "some women won't be able to get an abortion," and Trump says that women may have to travel outside of their home state to access a termination. "No, it'll go back to the states," he responds. "They'll perhaps have to go, they'll have to go to another state."
When asked "if that's OK," he replies, "Well, we'll see what happens."
Republican politicians have waged an all-out assault on reproductive health access for years, including TRAP laws requiring abortion clinics to undergo costly modifications or only hire physicians with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The rhetoric underpinning such legislation is couched in false concern for women's health: In reality, it's about eroding women's fundamental bodily rights.
Reproductive health activists say that Trump's support for Trump's presidency signals the death knell for American abortion rights. If women are forced to travel from their state to access a termination, it will make abortion a privilege of the elite—not a basic right for all women.
"You learn, 'There but for the grace of God, a credit card or a friend able to loan you $500, go I,'" explains Mara Clarke of the Abortion Support Network. Clarke is a long-time abortion advocate who, as part of the National Network for Abortion Funds, provided accommodation for women travelling to New York City for abortions from states where the procedure is unavailable. She now works to provide support to women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland who are also forced to travel for abortions.
Clarke knows the damaging effects of making women travel hundreds, even thousands of miles, to access abortions. "For women who have the money to travel for an abortion, abortion becomes inconvenient. For women without money, it's catastrophic," she explains. "Say you've got a woman who's already got children, like most women who seek abortions do. The doctor says, 'OK, an abortion is $500.' She works extra shifts, pawns her wedding ring.
"By the time she's got the money, it's too late—she's past the time limit in that state. Now she has to travel to another state, and maybe that state has a 72-hour waiting time. So she drives hundreds of miles there, has the appointment, drives hundred of miles back. Waits 72 hours, drives all the way back again. Who's going to be watching her kids while she's doing that?"
Many women may not know they're pregnant for weeks—even months—and scrambling to get the money together for a cross-state abortion with weeks to go until the term limit can be difficult. "There was a mother of three whose husband died in Iraq," Clarke says of one woman who traveled to New York for a termination, "and she had to turn to sex work in order to pay for her abortion."
Clarke fears that Trump's abortion plans will create fertile terrain for unscrupulous operators to target vulnerable women. "You'll have what currently happens in Ireland, where websites promise to send you [the abortion pill] Misoprostol and steal your money and send you nothing, or Paracetamol."
Depending on your location, accessing abortion can become a Sisyphean task. "If you're a woman in El Paso, the distance to your nearest abortion clinic could be the size of a country like France," Clarke explains. "America's a really big place. The logistics become insane."
Ultimately, Trump's abortion policies—like all his other policies—will punish the poor, vulnerable, and disenfranchised. "The wealthy will always be able to plan their families and decide how many kids they want and when they want them. And poor women won't." The consequences can be devastating, and even fatal.
"It's incredibly demoralizing to be forced to continue a pregnancy you don't want. And women will do anything not to be in that situation."