Conservative hostility toward Black Lives Matter and other civil-rights activist groups is well known. But there’s also one corner of the conservative universe, the anti-abortion movement, with a tradition of co-opting the rhetoric of the civil-rights movement, treating “the unborn” as the functional equivalent of slaves. That’s one reason that Republican pols who want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade so often compare it to Dred Scott v. Sandford, the notorious antebellum decision declaring slaves as personal property, no matter what Congress or the states wanted.
So it should come as no surprise that Donald Trump’s reelection campaign saw an opportunity to disrespect (while appropriating) BLM, signal its continued fidelity to the anti-abortion cause, and make a few bucks in the process — by selling a limited-edition $18 onesie emblazoned with “Baby Lives Matter.”
If there was any doubt about the meaning of this piece of campaign merch, the fact that it was originally rolled out in conjunction with the annual anti-abortion clambake the March for Life in January should dispel it.
Six months later, amid the national protests following the killing of George Floyd, the onesie is prompting outrage, but the cynical appropriation of BLM and civil-rights rhetoric is hardly new territory for anti-abortion activists, who have infamously tried to argue that “the most dangerous place for an African-American child is in the womb.”
Perhaps the Trump campaign will see fit to withdraw this provocative offering, but if forced to choose between BLM and one of the most potent MAGA constituencies, it’s a good bet it probably won’t.