Leaders of the nation’s largest organization of pro-life millennials say that while a long-anticipated meeting between the pro-life base of the Republican Party and presumptive nominee Donald Trump was “encouraging,” it was nevertheless “just the beginning of the conversation.”
President of Students for Life of America (SFLA) Kristan Hawkins said during a conference call for media following the meeting that while Trump seemed to understand the importance of religious liberty and had educated himself on issues surrounding this basic freedom, he was much less comfortable with the concerns of the pro-life movement, as evidenced by the fact that he even referred to them somewhat awkwardly as “the pro-life.”
“There was a lot of talk on religious freedom,” Hawkins said. “Mr. Trump talked a lot about that. For those of us in the pro-life movement it’s important when we talk about conscience rights – of physicians, of nurses, of pharmacists, not to have to be forced to participate in a procedure or dispensing a medicine that could cause an abortion.”
Hawkins said Trump seemed to have been educated on the conscience and religious liberty issues and he also reaffirmed his pledge to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.
She added, however, that her biggest disappointment was that the Trump campaign weeded out several pre-submitted questions about abortion, the Pain-Capable bill in Congress that would ban abortions past the fifth month of pregnancy, and defunding Planned Parenthood.
Pro-Life Future Director Brendan O’Morchoe also stressed that there was much further discussion that would be needed between Trump and the pro-life base of the GOP.
“For me, this was really just the beginning of the conversation,” he said during the press call.
“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done by everybody to better understand each other and what each other’s issues and concerns are,” he continued. “This was a good first step. It’s positive that he was just in the room with us.”
Both Hawkins and O’Morchoe discussed what they would like to see in terms of the “next step.”
“I personally would like to see an ongoing conversation happen,” Hawkins said. “I think I would have liked to see more of Mr. Trump’s heart. It may have opened the door so that we could have a second meeting and further educate him about our movement. A lot of times he just seemed very unfamiliar with the pro-life movement.”
“We’d also like to see more specific policy proposals,” O’Morchoe said. “What are going to be his actions during his first 100 days, and throughout his entire term if he is elected, that would move us closer to our goal of abolishing abortion?”
SFLA Wilberforce Fellows and Mississippi State Students for Life president Anja Scheib said she also would have liked to hear more from Trump about his change from being pro-choice to pro-life.
“It would have meant a lot for me, as a student and a young person, to hear his narrative,” she explained. “I think a lot of people are really curious to hear what changed his mind – what his narrative is on human rights and why it is at one point he was so pro-abortion and now he suddenly does have a heart for our movement.”
Hawkins described that Trump surrogate and former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson spoke to the group of religious and pro-life leaders, and that another former GOP candidate – Mike Huckabee – “mediated” by helping Trump respond to questions that were pre-submitted to the Trump campaign by their leaders.
Describing the decision to not have Trump respond to the questions about Planned Parenthood as “a disservice to him,” Hawkins said, “I think it would have been helpful to him to have him say what he was planning to do about Planned Parenthood. He has said in the past that he would defund Planned Parenthood as president and work with Congress to do so.”
She continued that while Trump seems to understand the importance of having pro-life Supreme Court justices, he only “gets” part of the issue about Planned Parenthood.
Referring to his statement during the GOP debates that Planned Parenthood does “lots of good work” and helps “millions and millions of women,” Hawkins said, “We know an organization that is killing 900 children every day is not doing good work.” She added Planned Parenthood “should never be praised publicly.”
Hawkins also observed that Trump has become the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party by “tapping into the anger” of many Americans.
“Millennials, especially pro-life millennials, aren’t angry,” however, she notes. “They want a fair chance to speak for the voiceless and help women who really need the help navigating a crisis pregnancy. And they want a government that protects the rights of all life.”