On Saturday, former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, harped on the old liberal canard that President Donald Trump is somehow turning America into the dystopia in The Handmaid’s Tale. This time, he compared the Trump administration’s policy of refusing to facilitate abortions for illegal immigrant minors to oppressive systematic rape to produce children.
Speaking at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund forum “We Decide,” O’Rourke made the ridiculous comparison while pandering to abortion activists in a desperate attempt to revive his faltering presidential ambitions.
The moderator asked him about the Garza v. Hargan case, in which the ACLU sued the Trump administration in order to tax-payer funded shelters for immigrants and refugees to facilitate abortion for women below the age of 18. Last Friday, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the ACLU, claiming that the Trump policy violated illegal minors’ right to an abortion.
“With the recent memory of this president and his secretary of Health and Human Services and the director of Refugee Resettlement trying to force young women into only one option, not allowing them to make their own decisions about their own body, literally personally getting involved in their cases,” O’Rourke began. He called the situation “haunting, chilling, reminiscent of maybe a scene from The Handmaid’s Tale, not the United States of America in 2018 and 2019.”
Is the Trump policy reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale? The basic premise of the television show — based on a book by Margaret Atwood — involves a future America, stricken with a disease that renders most women infertile. Partly in response to this situation, an oppressive theocratic government arises, stripping women of their rights to work, own property, or leave their households. The few fertile women are assigned as “handmaids” to powerful men, who ritualistically rape them in order to have children. The women are dehumanized, given the names of their masters.
The Trump policy, issued by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in 2017, involves not facilitating abortions for immigrants and refugees under the age of 18. Director Scott Lloyd, a Trump appointee, said the taxpayer-funded shelters may not take “any action that facilitates” an abortion for unaccompanied minors without his direct approval. The duties of the office include providing care to unaccompanied immigrant children until they are placed with a family member or sponsor. The government would allow these children to visit crisis pregnancy centers for counseling and help during pregnancy.
In Garza v. Hargan, an unnamed 17-year-old illegal immigrant girl at a shelter in Texas requested an abortion. The shelter did not allow her to leave to get an abortion, despite Texas granting a waiver for the killing of her unborn child. The ACLU sued, claiming that the right to abortion guaranteed under the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (1973) extends to illegal immigrants and minors.
“The Trump administration’s cruel policy of blocking young immigrant women in federal custody from accessing abortion was a blatant abuse of power,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, in a statement.
The appeals court panel ruled in favor of the ACLU. “We are unanimous in rejecting the government’s position that its denial of abortion access can be squared with Supreme Court precedent,” the ruling states. The ruling delays the Trump administration policy and allows the case to proceed as a class action lawsuit.
Laurence Silberman, a judge on the panel appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, wrote a dissent saying he did not support a class-action lawsuit by the ACLU. He also argued that officials should have a limited window to transfer a minor out of government custody to the care of a sponsor, where the child could then obtain an abortion without the government’s assistance.
If the case is appealed to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh will recuse himself.
Pro-life activists and lawyers lamented the decision, Life News reported.
“Today, federal court judges sided with the abortion lobby and its ally the ACLU against true compassion and human dignity,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. “The ACLU is pushing its larger agenda of making the United States a sanctuary nation for abortion. This shameful ruling must not stand. The Trump administration’s policy is compassionate and consistent with American laws and values, and we hope to see them appeal this decision.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that illegal immigrants do not gain a “constitutional right to an abortion on demand” as soon as they set foot on U.S. soil. He warned that in this case, the ACLU is trying to “create a right to abortion for anyone on earth who enters the U.S. illegally. And with that right, countless others undoubtedly would follow. Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”
Whatever the merits of the case and the Trump policy, it is ludicrous to compare it to The Handmaid’s Tale. The U.S. government is not responsible for this girl becoming pregnant, and the government’s refusal to facilitate abortion does not even prevent her from obtaining an abortion as soon as she is placed with family or a guardian. Rather, the ACLU is attempting to create a situation where women can come to the U.S. specifically to get their unborn babies put to death.
Beto O’Rourke’s star has been on the wane lately. Despite an important staffing win, the former congressman seems to have been replaced by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as the young, inspiring option in the 2020 race. Desperate gambits like this will not turn around a struggling campaign. This kind of rhetoric does demonize pro-life Americans, however, suggesting that any attempt to save unborn babies is really a secret theocratic plot to take away women’s rights and turn them into brood mares.
O’Rourke should be ashamed of himself.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.