Looking back at last week’s debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I was particularly struck by one verb used by the GOP presidential candidate as it harkened back to a passage from Macbeth. Trump was guilty of the same misleading characterization of the birth process as Macduff is.
First, here’s what Trump said:
If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.
Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.
As a number of commentators have pointed out, this is nonsense. Pulling a baby out of a mother’s womb at this stage is generally called a Caesarian. Late term abortions of healthy fetuses, meanwhile, are not allowed in most states. Abortions in the third trimester are allowable, however, if the health of the mother is at risk or if the fetus is dead or dying. The medically wise decision can be emotionally wrenching, and “ripped” is a grotesquely offensive way of describing the process.
MacDuff is guilty of Trump-like confusion in his final battle with Macbeth, although he has more of an excuse. The usurper king warns Macduff that he cannot be killed by anyone “of woman born,” to which Macduff replies with a subtle distinction:
Macbeth: Thou losest labor.
As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air
With thy keen sword impress as make me bleed.
Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;
I bear a charmèd life, which must not yield
To one of woman born.
Macduff: Despair thy charm,
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
In other words, Macduff was born by means of a caesarian, which those of us who are not Donald Trump would consider to be the same as being of woman born. Apparently, only natural childbirth counts as a legitimate birth in Macduff’s eyes.
Unless you want to follow suit and argue that caesarians and medically necessary abortions involve ripping, then you should reject Trump’s language with horror.