While some conservatives are already questioning whether to support presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the general election, several prominent pro-life groups say he’s the only viable option for abortion opponents in 2016.
Between Mr. Trump and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — the only presidential candidate ever endorsed by Planned Parenthood — Father Frank Pavone says the decision is easy.
“Hillary Clinton can hardly find an abortion she doesn’t like,” the national director for Priests for Life said. “She’s virtually for unrestricted abortion. Here, on the other hand, we have a man in Donald Trump who has said that abortion is wrong. He wants to protect the unborn, and he’s committed in fact to very specific steps.”
Fr. Pavone said his group will work to convince pro-life activists to support Mr. Trump in the general election.
“Withholding support [from Mr. Trump] at this point is in effect support for Hillary,” he said. “Sometimes people might feel like, ‘I feel better in my conscience because I didn’t cast a vote for him and I didn’t cast a vote for Hillary either.’ [But] you can influence the election by not voting.”
Mallory Quigley, director of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, said her group will also support Mr. Trump, citing his campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood and support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization.
“I think achieving these goals would be a huge accomplishment, bigger than any pro-life advancement that we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Ms. Quigley said, adding, “We’re expecting Trump to be a man of his word and follow through, just as he would on any issue.”
Clarke Forsythe, acting president and senior counsel for Americans United for Life, would not commit to supporting Mr. Trump in the general election, but said supporting Mrs. Clinton — whose position on abortion he compared to the North Korea regime’s — is untenable.
Mr. Forsythe said in a statement that AUL “will be carefully and closely watching Donald Trump between now and election day, to see whether he lays out pro-life policies as well as to learn what his recommendations will be for the GOP party platform.”
Ms. Quigley said it is the pro-life movement’s job to support pro-life candidates — and then hold them accountable.
For instance, after Mr. Trump praised the “wonderful things” that Planned Parenthood does besides abortion, the Susan B. Anthony List asked Mr. Trump to “take off the rose-colored glasses he wears when talking about Planned Parenthood.”
“We’re very quick to correct Donald Trump when he’s misrepresented the movement with what he’s said,” Ms. Quigley said.
During the GOP primary fight, pro-life groups largely supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former business executive Carly Fiorina, both of whom made defunding Planned Parenthood a central plank of their campaigns.
Abortion opponents also questioned Mr. Trump’s history of supporting pro-choice Democrats, including Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in elections.
But following the death of former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Fr. Pavone said Mr. Trump is now the pro-life movement’s last, best hope of retaining a majority on the bench.
“When it comes to the Supreme Court, Donald Trump has mentioned Scalia as a model,” he said. “Well, that’s music to our ears, naturally. We know what we’re going to get with Hillary. Even if people have doubts about what kind of people Donald Trump would nominate, the difference here is between doubt and certainty.”
Fr. Pavone said Mr. Trump is not the ideal pro-life candidate, but added that a healthy dose of pragmatism is necessary in any election.
“You don’t compromise on your goals or your principles,” he said. “At the same time, you look at the situation and you say, ‘How far can we go in these circumstances?’ Well, either one or the other is going to be president, so we want the better of the two.”
“We know 100 percent where Hillary Clinton stands,” Ms. Quigley noted. “She supports abortion up until the moment of birth for any reason. She has yet to name a single instance in which she would stand in and protect the life of the child, even sex-selection abortions, abortions for disability, up until the very moment of birth.
“We’ve made the judgment that this is what we need to do.”