The pro-life movement has officially joined the Trump train.
This morning, Trump rolled out his Pro-Life Coalition, helmed by Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which funds pro-life candidates. In a press release announcing the group, Dannenfelser praised Trump for his commitment to making the Hyde Amendment, which keeps tax dollars from funding abortions, a federal law. Hillary Clinton, in contrast, has promised to repeal Hyde so tax dollars can pay for abortion procedures.
While this might not seem terribly important coming nearly four months after Trump locked down the Republican nomination, it is further proof that the party’s social conservatives are finally coalescing around Trump—and using their resources to support a man who they once hoped would just go away.
Unlike typical presidential candidates, Trump made more overtures to pro-lifers after winning the primary than he did while it was going on.
“It’s great,” Dannenfelser told The Daily Beast in June. “It’s why it makes it easier for me to be open-minded, because we are dealing with somebody who is not a typical candidate—he just does things very differently.”
Dannenfelser was a vocal Trump critic during the primary.
Before the Iowa and South Carolina contests, she joined other female pro-life leaders in urging Republicans to back anyone but Trump. They found his kind words for Planned Parenthood to be very disturbing. And Trump’s decision to bail on a meeting with a group of pro-life Catholic priests didn’t do him any favors with the pro-life community. And when the Supreme Court leveled a devastating blow to the pro-life community by overturning Texas’s abortion regulations, Trump stayed mum. And they didn’t like it.
Her decision to work with him suggests the tensions that had divided Trump from the pro-life community have largely dissipated.
Now, that doesn’t mean all pro-life leaders are head-over-heels the nominee. But they say he’s still leagues better than his opponent. And the new management running Trump’s campaign includes a number of Republican operatives with deep ties to the pro-life community. Kellyanne Conway and David Bossie—his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, respectively—are both consistent foes of abortion and close to pro-life leaders. And Trump’s hiring of social conservative stalwart John Mashburn, formerly an aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, also heartened pro-life leaders.
Couple that with the fact that social conservatives don’t want Hillary Clinton anywhere near the Supreme Court, and their turnaround on Trump makes sense.
And Trump needs it.
His campaign’s state-level get-out-the-vote organizing is woefully behind Clinton’s, which is where SBA List comes in. Mallory Quigley, a spokesperson for the organization, said they have knocked on 600,000 doors so far this cycle—focusing on registered Republican pro-life voters who aren’t likely to vote—and aim to hit 1 million by Election Day. She said the group also has 500 paid canvassers working in North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. And they’ve already had some success this cycle: SBA List backers helped stop North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican who opposed one of their legislative priorities, from winning her primary.
And Trump’s full embrace of the pro-life movement puts him at odds with some of his own family members. His son, Donald Trump Jr., said in a 2012 interview that he supports abortion rights and couldn’t understand why anyone would want legal limits on the procedure.
“I don’t even understand how it’s a political issue,” he said in a 2012 radio interview. “I don’t understand how there is one issue for voters for that. I don’t understand how you can tell someone what they can or can’t do.”
“I can’t buy into the abortion argument,” he added. “I wish the Republicans would drop it as part of their platform.”
Despite that, pro-life activists are set to give Trump’s campaign a major assist. And given swing-state polls that show him and Clinton in virtual ties, he needs all the help he can get.