Donald Trump’s no good, very bad week talking about abortion

Let’s be clear: If Donald Trump is talking about abortion, he’s losing. He and his campaign would much rather be playing offense, slamming President Joe Biden on issues like immigration and the economy as the 2024 presidential race heats up.

But when he’s talking about abortion, Trump is playing defense. So at the outset of the week, Trump tried to put the issue to rest . Here’s a very brief recap of how that worked out.

Monday: After months of obfuscation, Trump finally stated his position on abortion: Individual states should decide the issue. Electorally speaking, Trump’s states’ rights stance seemed like his least bad play in a crappy hand. The worst option, it seemed, would be endorsing a national ban of any kind.

The Biden campaign ran with it , hanging every horrific statewide abortion ban around Trump’s neck.

Tuesday:  Arizona’s extremist Supreme Court upholds a near-total abortion ban that dates back to 1864, without exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother (unless her life is in jeopardy).

Biden again saddles Trump with another Draconian ban.

Left: Trump yesterday saying he supports “many states” having extreme abortion laws Right: The Arizona Supreme Court just now upholding an 1864 near-total abortion ban, with penalty of prison, written before women could vote. It is now enforceable because Trump ended Roe

— Biden-Harris HQ (@BidenHQ) April 9, 2024

Wednesday: Trump, asked whether Arizona went too far , says “Yeah, they did,” adding, “That’ll be straightened out. And I’m sure that the governor and everybody else are going to bring it back into reason and that will be taken care of, I think, very quickly.”

Nope, responded Arizona Republicans, who instead killed Democrats’ repeal efforts and abruptly ended the legislative session.

Friday: Trump urgently tweets that the Democratic governor and Republican-led Arizona Legislature “must” repeal the law. (Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs has repeatedly called for its repeal.)

“The Supreme Court in Arizona went too far on their Abortion Ruling, enacting and approving an inappropriate Law from 1864,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “So now the Governor and the Arizona Legislature must use HEART, COMMON SENSE, and ACT IMMEDIATELY, to remedy what has happened.”

“Remember,” he added, “it is now up to the States and the Good Will of those that represent THE PEOPLE.”

And by “States,” Trump really means “me.”

Trump deferring to the states must have seemed like a good option Monday, but by Friday that wasn’t so clear. Trump is now on the hook for every lunatic move made by GOP state lawmakers—as Arizona so exquisitely proved. And Trump has resorted to begging them to take the issue off the table for him, while the Biden campaign hammers one simple message: “Trump did this .”

All in all, a stellar week for Trump, who heads to trial Monday  in New York to defend himself against a criminal conviction on 32 counts of fraud—for making hush-money payments to an adult film star.

Trump’s lose-lose situation on abortion somehow got worse this week after he released a video attempting to spin a position on the polarizing issue. What does this mean? Bad news for the Republican Party, already in disarray.

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Candidate for governor built his brand through online vitriol—particularly toward Black women

Experts say the candidacy of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson sheds light on how Republican candidates rise by appealing to the extremes and how hate spreads online.

by Grace Panetta , The 19th

North Carolina Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Robinson has a long history of attacking influential women  in personal and often vulgar terms. But Robinson has reserved particular vitriol for Black women in positions of power, with many of his social media postings invoking misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia.

Experts and advocates say Robinson’s candidacy  and his easily winning the Republican nomination  reflect both the incentives within the Republican Party to appeal to the extremes with inflammatory language and stances — and how major tech platforms have enabled the spread of hateful content  disproportionately harming Black women.

“As it relates to Black women in particular, we know that they have historically been plagued by biases and disparities that reflect broader issues of representation and diversity within this country,” said Esosa Osa, founder and CEO of Onyx Impact, a nonprofit organization focused on Black voters’ civic engagement and combatting disinformation.

“As they become more visible on any platform, their presence is weaponized,” Osa said.

Robinson, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor who has made frequent speaking appearances  at churches, rose to prominence with his far-right views , embrace of conspiracy theories  and incendiary rhetoric  at the pulpit and on social media. Throughout his career, Robinson has espoused anti-abortion  and anti-LGBTQ+ stances  — including stating that God “formed” him to fight  LGBTQ+ acceptance.

Robinson will face Democrat Josh Stein in one of the most competitive and consequential governor’s races  this year. If elected, Robinson would be North Carolina’s first Black governor. His candidacy comes at a time when the Republican Party is attempting to win over more Black voters  in battleground states like North Carolina.

But, Osa said, nominating a Black candidate doesn’t mean the Republican Party will win over Black voters, especially Black women , who are the core of the Democratic Party’s base. Osa said Robinson’s rise comes from a “historical lack of curiosity about the Black voter” and described him as a “tsunami of anti-Black disinformation.”

“I think that the current media landscape is set up to amplify division, amplify hate and amplify biases,” Osa said. “The GOP, in particular, is benefiting from the social media landscape that these tech companies have allowed to proliferate. And it says a lot about your efforts to court Black voters when these are the types of candidates that rise to the top.”

Moya Bailey, a Black feminist scholar and professor of communication studies at Northwestern University, first coined the term “misogynoir ” to characterize the intersection of misogyny and racism uniquely targeted toward Black women.

In an email to The 19th, Bailey said Robinson’s postings show how misogynoir “is an equal opportunity form of discrimination” weaponized by Black and non-Black people alike.

“Robinson joins a long line of Black men of various political stripes who use misogynoiristic ideas about Black women for their own political gain,” she said. In a world where demeaning Black women can help someone boost their own career, “it’s no wonder that his vitriol is so consistent.”

Robinson’s extensive social media history, including several previously unreported posts, shows how he used his Facebook page to cultivate his incendiary political brand for years before his successful first run for office in 2020.

In doing so, Robinson has gone after a number of prominent women in politics — and women who have accused prominent men of sexual misconduct. Many of his attacks over the years have often been based in racist stereotypes.  

In 2017, Robinson posted a meme referring to Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida as a “lying, liberal, bottom feeding, pond scum” and “dressing like a rejected drag queen from Brokeback Mountain,” as first reported by the Huffington Post.  

He has taken particular aim at former First Lady Michelle Obama, calling her an “angry anti-American communist Black lady” and saying she speaks “ghetto” and “wookie.” She was among the targets of previously unreported Facebook posts by Robinson:

In 2012, Robinson reposted a meme  criticizing the cost of the outfit Obama wore at the Kids’ Choice Awards . The meme included a graphic of an ObamaCard paid for by the taxpayer, feeding into racist tropes depicting Black women as dependent on government assistance.  

In January 2017 , Robinson posted a meme with text overlaying a photo of former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Hillary Clinton and Obama at former President Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration reading: “That look you get when you see a 1st lady who’s not an old hag or a drag queen.” The meme was watermarked “M. Robinson memes.”

In an October 2017 post,  he referred to Rep. Maxine Waters as “Ol’ Maxie Pad Waters” in criticizing comments she made about Trump.  

A Robinson campaign spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Robinson has long promoted what he sees as a Biblical view of masculinity, once stating in 2022 he believes  “we are called to be led by men” and that “when it was time to face down Goliath,” God “sent David, not Davita. David.”  

In a previously unreported sermon  he delivered in July 2020, Robinson said he believes he and God are “full of machismo.”

“We need our own men to stand up and teach our young men how to be men. And when I say men, I mean manly men. I’m talking about the kind of manly men that they want to say, ‘You’re a male chauvinist pig’ or ‘You’re full of machismo’ — you better believe I am,” Robinson said. “God put that in me to be a man. There’s not anything feminine standing before you.”

He added: “God created me for a purpose, and more importantly, he created me in his image. So maybe God is full of machismo too.”

In other previously unreported Facebook posts , Robinson attacks the #MeToo movement holding powerful men accountable for sexual violence and misconduct as an attack on masculinity. In 2017 , he wrote that leftists were not combatting a “pervasive culture of sexual harassment” but  “creating a weapon with it.” In numerous posts, Robinson both mocked and cast doubt on accusations of sexual assault against figures like Harvey WeinsteinR. Kelly  and disgraced actor Bill Cosby, including insulting the appearances of accusers .

He also posted in defense of Trump  following the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape  days before the 2016 election, writing: “I don’t think Trump is a ‘disgusting pervert’ for saying what he said. The ‘disgusting pervert’ is the guy who taped it.” Robinson also downplayed allegations against Judge Roy Moore , the Alabama U.S. Senate candidate who was accused by multiple women of sexually assaulting them  when they were teens.  

In a January 2019 Facebook post , Robinson wrote that masculinity was “under assault” by the left and that “satan and his agents” were attacking men. He further charged that the media was focusing on “high-profile abusers in an effort to demonize men.” In another January 2019 post , Robinson suggested chaperones as a way to prevent “date rape.”

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of the advocacy group UltraViolet, which works to combat sexism in popular culture and on tech platforms, argued that social media platforms have failed to curb hateful speech at the expense of Black women’s online safety  and a healthy democracy. Robinson’s posts, she said, are also emblematic of how social media platforms helped fuel the massive backlash to the #MeToo movement, which includes discrediting and insulting survivors.  

“What was a very inspiring, power-building, majoritarian moment around sexual assault really got drowned out by forces that were profiting off of misogyny,” she said. “There is always a backlash, but this backlash was massive and has had real staying power in large part because of the way platforms operate.”  

Osa, a former senior adviser to Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams , said she’s working to combat the “lack of infrastructure” protecting Black communities from disinformation aimed at suppressing voter engagement .

And while she sees “increasingly sophisticated” disinformation campaigns targeting Black women and Black voters , she believes they will still reject candidates like Robinson.

“Black women are some of the most consistent voters that we have in our electorate,” she said. “I think that when parties back candidates like Mark Robinson that have such a history of harmful, racist, anti-Black narratives, you will see Black men and Black women come out and stand against it.”

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Why progressives have to worry about a top-two lockout in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race

Court of Appeals Judge Pedro Colón tells WisPolitics that he’s considering a bid for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, making him the third liberal candidate to express interest in next year’s open-seat race following progressive Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s retirement announcement on Thursday.

Two other liberal judges, Chris Taylor and Susan Crawford, had previously said they were considering bids. Meanwhile, one conservative, former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, is already running, and another, Appeals Court Judge Maria Lazar, says she might join him. However, former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, who badly lost a comeback bid last year, informs WisPolitics he has “absolutely no intention of running whatsoever.”

Both sides, however, will need to be on guard against getting locked out of the general election. That’s because Wisconsin will hold an officially nonpartisan primary on Feb. 18, when all candidates will run together on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters will then advance to an April 1 general election, which means it’s possible that two liberals or two conservatives could face off in the second round of voting.

This problem is very familiar to voters in California , where deep-pocketed Democratic groups have often felt compelled to intervene in the state’s top-two primaries to ensure at least one Democrat moves on. Republicans have faced this issue less frequently, in part because California’s primary electorate tends to be more conservative than the one that shows up in November, but a similar pattern won’t necessarily hold in Wisconsin.

In fact, in last year’s Supreme Court election, a pair of progressive candidates combined for 54% of the vote in the primary—very similar to the 55% that the eventual winner, trial court Judge Janet Protaseiwicz, took in the general. But liberals were fearful of a lockout when the race began: Protasiewicz’s campaign manager, Alejandro Verdin, told “The Downballot” podcast that initial internal polls showed her a “distant third” behind two conservatives.

To avoid such a fate, establishment forces coalesced around Protasiewicz early on, which helped her earn a dominant 46% in the primary; another liberal judge took just 8%. Conservatives, meanwhile, were divided, with Kelly edging past Jennifer Dorow just 24-22 after a bitter campaign.

However, if a pair of conservatives were to square off against a trio of progressives, that would greatly increase the risk of liberals fracturing the vote and getting left out of the general election—a disaster of epic proportions that would immediately shift control of the court back to its conservative wing.

We’re not there yet, and much will transpire over the coming months. But the prospect of a top-two lockout is something progressives can’t sleep on.

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Fatal anomaly exception didn’t spare Alabama mom who needed an abortion

A heart defect and large fetal tumor weren’t enough for doctors to feel comfortable granting abortion care.

By Kelcie Mosely-Morris  for Alabama Reflector

Kelly Shannon was grieving a pregnancy she would need to terminate because of multiple fetal anomalies when she got the call that Alabama doctors wouldn’t approve an abortion procedure despite exceptions in the law. That meant she would have to leave the state.

Shannon, 36, was about 16 weeks along in January 2023 when genetic testing—and confirmation from an amniocentesis—showed her fetus likely had Trisomy 21, better known as Down syndrome. It didn’t take long for the doctor to determine the fetus likely wouldn’t survive to term. There was fluid buildup in the head and body, evidence of a heart defect, and a tumor on the abdomen that was roughly one-third the size of its entire body.

“There was so much decision-making and processing, and you’re still feeling the baby kick the whole time,” Shannon said. “And every time she would kick, I was just sitting there like, ‘I’m so sorry. I wish I got to be your mom, but I don’t get to be your mom.’”

Three years before the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision in June 2022 and returned the ability to regulate abortion to the states, Alabama had already passed an abortion ban. Gov. Kay Ivey said at the time she signed the bill that even though it was likely unenforceable since abortion was still legal nationally, it was a signal to the courts to overturn Roe v. Wade. A group of physicians challenged the Alabama law in court and received a preliminary injunction that had barred its enforcement for years. But when Dobbs took effect, the injunction was lifted. Doctors are now subject to felony charges with punishment of up to life in prison.

Alabama is one of few states with an abortion ban at any stage of pregnancy that also contains an exception for lethal fetal anomalies. In the law, it’s defined as a condition from which the fetus would die after birth or shortly thereafter, or be stillborn. There are also exceptions for performing an abortion to save a pregnant patient’s life or preserve their health. However, according to the latest WeCount report of abortions performed since Dobbs, Alabama has recorded zero abortion procedures. Activists have argued that exceptions in abortion bans are meaningless because there is too much fear and uncertainty about what circumstances will qualify for an exception.

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality, and more often occurs when the pregnant person is over the age of 35. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infants with Down syndrome and a heart defect are five times more likely to die in their first year of life than those without.

Each abnormality on its own would possibly have been manageable, Shannon said, but the maternal-fetal medicine specialist told her the combination meant she would likely either miscarry at some point during the pregnancy or her daughter’s life would be short and punctuated by multiple surgeries. Shannon and her husband made the difficult decision at that point to terminate.

“That made the decision easier because it was like, well now if I know I’m going to lose her regardless, I can lose her on a controlled timeline, protect my health, start the grieving process, get healthy, and then still be able to have another child,” she said.

Shannon filled out paperwork and made a termination appointment pending approval from the other maternal-fetal medicine specialists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her doctor felt confident that given the severity of the anomalies, the abortion would be allowed.

‘I don’t think I would’ve taken that risk on me’

A few days later, in the car on her way to meet her husband and toddler at a local dog park, the doctor called back.

“I knew why she was calling me. I knew that was the day the (second) committee was supposed to meet and she’d be calling me with their decision,” Shannon said.

Shannon scheduled the Jan. 24 termination date, made arrangements to take leave from work, and had decided on cremation. But with one phone call, all the decisions she’d made had to change.

The termination had easily been approved by the first committee, and it seemed like the higher-level committee would sign off too. But in a halting manner, the doctor explained the committee had decided since each condition by itself was survivable, it didn’t meet the criteria for termination. She told Shannon it was the hardest phone call she’d made in her professional career.

The only way the committee might approve the request was if the fetus also developed a condition called hydrops fetalis, an excessive buildup of fluid that is often fatal. Shannon said that put her in a strange place of having some kind of hope that her pregnancy was even worse than originally thought. But she wasn’t upset with the doctors themselves.

“I mostly just felt sorry for them, even at the time,” she said. “As angry as I was that I wasn’t going to get to handle my pregnancy and my termination in the way that made the most sense to me … if I had been in their shoes and thought ‘well, is this one case worth my license and jail time and prosecution? Her life’s not in danger, her baby’s probably going to die.’ I don’t think I would’ve taken that risk on me.”

The manager of public relations at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said no one was available to speak with States Newsroom for this story.

Shannon had one more ultrasound at 17 weeks, where her providers checked for hydrops, but there was no presence of it. As the pregnancy had progressed further since the last ultrasound,  multiple holes between the chambers of the fetus’s heart were clearly visible, and the tumor had grown seven-tenths of a centimeter. Despite the increased severity of those issues, without hydrops, she still had to go out of state.

A scheduling error meant Shannon had to wait two more weeks before she could get an appointment at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia—an 11-hour drive. Rather than bring her husband and toddler along for the ordeal, Shannon’s parents accompanied her. It was the first night she’d ever spent away from her toddler.

She chose to be induced for the procedure. After a long day of waiting, Shannon gave birth a few minutes before midnight and got to hold her daughter.

“I kept her with me until about 2 or 3 in the morning,” she said.

The logistics of what to do with the remains became more complicated since she was now more than 700 miles away from home and wouldn’t be able to visit a burial site in Virginia the way she could have in Alabama. She opted to have her daughter buried with other babies that had died because of miscarriage, termination, or other premature causes.

Baby boy born in mid-March

In mid-March, Shannon gave birth to a healthy baby boy that was a surprise pregnancy. She had been aiming for her next pregnancy to happen over the summer, when she wasn’t teaching.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I just started crying. Instead of being excited, the trauma came back,” she said. “And I felt like, I want to be excited and happy, but I’m not there yet because I don’t know if we get to keep this one yet either.”

She said she wants her story to make a difference, in hopes that another person doesn’t have to go through the same pain.

“I get angry whenever I see people with the ‘choose life’ bumper stickers and license plates, because they’re not thinking about me. They’re not recognizing that it’s not a black and white issue, it’s nothing but shades of gray when you’re dealing with pregnancy, particularly high-risk pregnancy,” Shannon said. “I am a married, white, straight, Christian, grew-up-in-the-church woman who was attempting to grow her family within the bounds of marriage, and I just keep thinking, if anybody is going to be able to change a mind about this issue, shouldn’t it be me?”

Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of an occasional States Newsroom series called “When and Where: Abortion Access in America,” profiling individuals who have needed abortion care in the U.S. before and after Dobbs. The first installment can be found here , the second installment is here , and the third is here .

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4 years ago today: Trump claims ‘ultimate’ and ‘total’ authority

In February, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Donald Trump’s claim that a U.S. president enjoys “absolute immunity.” According to one of Trump’s attorneys, that even includes the right to order Seal Team Six to murder a political opponent . As ridiculous as those claims may be, and as scary as it is for the court to give them consideration , absolute immunity isn’t the only absolute Trump believes he is due.

During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, as governors acted to protect their states, Trump wanted to overrule them. As Republican governors began removing constraints, Trump wanted credit.

And on April 13, Trump’s desires boiled over at one of his daily coronavirus briefings. After a discussion of the situation by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump shooed Fauci away from the podium and launched an extended session of self-congratulations. During that session, Trump explained to America that governors don’t have the authority to make any decisions over their states. But someone did.

“Well, I have the ultimate authority,” said Trump.

That ultimate authority became the theme of the day as Trump returned to it over and over, starting with this completely unenlightening definition.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you—very simple. I’m going to put it very simply: The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The president of the United States calls the shots.

Trump went on to explain that both state and local governments “can’t do anything without the approval of the President of the United States,” but he still wasn’t done proclaiming his unlimited authority.

TRUMP: When someone’s the president of the United States, the authority is total. That’s the way it’s gotta be.

REPORTER: Your authority is total?

TRUMP: Total.

Trump took a moment to complain about “a couple of Democratic governors” who weren’t going along with his orders before again claiming that “the authority of the president of the United States is total.”

At least one reporter in the audience was clearly stunned by this claim

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN, CNN: A quick question about something you just said. You said, “When someone is president of the United States, their authority is total.” That is not true. Who— who told you that?

TRUMP: You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to write up papers on this. It’s not going to be necessary because the governors need us one way or the other. …

COLLINS: Has any governor agreed that you have the authority to decide when their state opens back up?

TRUMP: I haven’t asked anybody, because you know why? Because I don’t have to.

Collins made one last try saying. “But who told you the president has total authority?” 

Trump scowled at her, held up a finger, and replied brusquely, “Enough.” That was it for questioning Trump’s authority.

But then, this was a very busy day for Trump. In addition to telling every governor and local government what to do, he also spent the day convincing Russia and Saudi Arabia to make massive cuts in oil production , ensuring that American consumers would pay higher prices at the pump. He even went so far as to treat Saudi Arabia as he had Ukraine, threatening them with the loss of U.S. military support if they didn’t go along with his plan.

It may seem extreme, but then Trump claimed to have absolute authority along with absolute immunity. Maybe we should be grateful that’s all he did that day … so far as we know.

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