Donald Trump’s War on the Unborn

He was elected to be ‘pro-life,’ but the president’s policies from health care to climate change could kill millions of our children and grandchildren.

Hannah McKay/Reuters

Evangelical voters put Donald Trump over the top to protect the unborn, but he has declared war on them instead.

For a start, the World Health Organization estimates that between 2030-2050, climate change will cause approximately 250,000 deaths every year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. And that was before Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord, putting the entire agreement at risk.

Of course, these aren’t the unborn children most religious conservatives mean. They mean fetuses and embryos—even miscarried fetuses, which as of last week may be issued birth certificates by the state of Florida. But as a rising generation of “creation care” Christians have emphasized, to be truly pro-life requires protecting human life in all its forms, not just before birth. And tallying up the Trump administration’s war on the unborn is truly horrific.

There’s the 250,000 annual deaths caused by climate-related diseases as droughts increase, crops fail, and micro-climates shift. That number is the tip of the climate change iceberg, however. As President Obama patiently explained to Leonardo DiCaprio in a video that has since gone viral, the greatest human dangers from climate change will result from mass migration, as hundreds of millions of people—most of them poor—flee coastal areas and newly desertified regions, choking cities and straining food supplies. 

Imagine the Syrian refugee crisis, magnified by a hundredfold. 

And while you’re imagining Syrian refugees, remember that the Syrian conflict was also, in large part, a result of climate change. A 2015 report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that the unprecedented drought from 2007-2010 forced Syrian farmers to abandon their farms for the cities and caused a massive crop failure that led to food shortages, riots, overcrowding, instability, and civil unrest that led to government crackdowns. 

This was no ordinary drought. Based on a century of data on precipitation, temperature, and sea-level pressure, the report concluded that anthropogenic climate change “made the occurrence of a 3-year drought as severe as that of 2007−2010 2 to 3 times more likely than by natural variability alone.” It’s no wonder that the University College London Institute for Global Health stated that “climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”

Oh, but there are others.

Next are the 24,000 Americans who will die each year for lack of health coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, according to a number of studies that have tracked the health effects of insurance (or lack thereof). That number is probably too conservative. It is based on 20 million people losing insurance—less than the Congressional Budget Office now estimates —and extrapolates from the impacts of expanded insurance coverage in Massachusetts. Extrapolations based on New York, Maine, and Arizona yield an annual death toll of 44,000. (Incidentally, none of these figures are based on the study cited in one attempted refutation of the projections.)

And then the unknown number of people, born and as yet unborn, who will get sick because of newly lax or eliminated water pollution rules, smog rules, power plant emissions regulations, fracking regulations, and pesticide regulations. Indeed, one of the first acts of the Scott Pruitt-led Environmental Protection Agency was to de-regulate chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that EPA’s scientific studies conclusively showed to be a carcinogen. 

Overseas, the popular UNICEF program is the world’s largest provider of vaccines to vulnerable children around the world—1.5 million of whom die every year due to diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. But instead of increasing funding for UNICEF, the 2018 Trump budget zeroes it out completely, a loss of $132 million for the agency. The human cost? To be determined.

There are even 20,000 refugees with immediately life-threatening health conditions, according to the United Nations, whose entry to the United States has been held up by the administration’s on-again/off-again travel ban.

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Then there are the numbers that are harder to quantify. We will never know how many people will get sick because government funding for scientific research has been slashed, for example. Nor can we know the effects of Trump’s withdrawal from the international world order and the decline in U.S. global leadership. 

And all of these numbers are only the health-related casualties of the Trump administration. The current pace of civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes—1,484 were killed in Iraq and Syria during the month of March—would blow away the Obama civilian death toll, and the count will likely rise higher as ISIS moves into urban areas. Trump is indeed “bombing the hell out of ISIS,” and, exactly as predicted, this has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent bystanders.

Needless to say, none of this includes any future death toll from wars in the Middle East, Iran, the Korean Peninsula, or wherever else the hawkish wing of the Trump administration turns its attention.

There is a coherent ideology tying together all of these statistics. It is the philosophy of tyrants past and present: that power is the greatest good, that life is a bitter competition among hostile combatants, that what matters are properties like strength, fame, money, possessions, and size.

And the worst things? Weakness, femininity, being a “nobody,” foolishly believing in naïve myths of cooperation and compassion. Our vulgar, narcissistic president is a Nietzschean, an Randian, even though I am sure he has never read either of them. His only value is his own aggrandizement.

In their hearts, religious conservatives must know that Trump is not truly pro-life. Not simply because, as he said many times, he believes in the rights of women to make their own reproductive health care choices. But more broadly: because his adolescent, dog-eat-dog worldview is the very opposite of the biblical one, in which Jesus favored the meek, the outcast, the humble—precisely those Trump would call “losers” and discard.

God says in Deuteronomy 30:19: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Donald Trump has done the opposite.