Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chastised Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Tuesday for failing to state his position on the type of abortion restrictions he would support.
DeSantis also defended his decision to sign a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which has been criticised by some Republicans as being excessively strict, in some of his toughest comments to date on the subject. The remarks set up a possible schism for DeSantis when he officially enters the presidential campaign, which may happen as soon as next week.
In an interview released on Monday by digital news company The Messenger, Trump stated, “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing.” But he signed for six weeks, which many in the pro-life movement believe is too short.”
The former president made the remarks following a CNN town hall gathering last week, during which he claimed credit for choosing the conservative Supreme Court judges who overturned Roe v. Wade. When pressed, Trump refused to answer if he would support a federal abortion ban or what kind of restrictions he would sign into law.
At a bill signing press conference in Broward County, DeSantis said, “protecting an unborn child when there is a detectable heartbeat is something that almost certainly 99 percent of pro-lifers support.” Other states, including Iowa under Gov. Kim Reynolds, have approved similar legislation.”
The governor went on to say, “I think that as a Florida resident, you know, he didn’t give an answer about ‘would you have signed the heartbeat bill that Florida did.'” It possessed all of the aforementioned exclusions. It was enacted by the legislature. The bill was signed by me. It made me proud. He won’t say whether he’d sign it or not.”
DeSantis’ words came just days before he is slated to deliver the keynote presentation at the Florida Family Policy Council’s annual dinner, which promotes itself as the state’s “leading pro-life, pro-family” organisation.
Florida’s current abortion law, which prohibits abortion beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, was enacted just before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalised abortion a half-century ago.
Legislators reduced it to six weeks this spring, however the new bill has exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking provided there is proof of the offence. However, the six-week limit will not go into force until the state Supreme Court resolves on a legal challenge to the 15-week measure.
DeSantis signed Florida’s new ban into law on April 13 and announced it on social media shortly after midnight that night. He didn’t mention it at first, even when he appeared at a hardline Christian Liberty University event, the country’s leading conservative religious school. However, DeSantis has made brief allusions of the prohibition in a list of legislative victories he has touted in recent travels across the country.
Democrats have slammed the new law, claiming that it amounts to a total prohibition because some women do not realise they are pregnant until they are six weeks along. Some Republicans have also questioned the restriction, fearing that it may cost them votes in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, abortion rights activists have launched a campaign to push Florida voters to allow abortions up to 24 weeks.
In an interview with The Messenger, Trump stated that he believed in exceptions to a rigorous ban, such as rape and incest, but would to say if he would sign a comparable six-week ban into federal law. Instead, he stated that he was “looking” into options.
Trump’s abortion responses have enraged certain members of the conservative Christian community.
The president and CEO of the Iowa-based Family Leader organisation, Bob Vander Plaats, tweeted on Monday that the Iowa caucuses were “wide open” in the light of Trump’s remarks that the six-week ban may be too harsh. Vander Plaats visited Florida recently to meet with DeSantis and his wife, Casey DeSantis.
According to John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council and a long-time anti-abortion advocate in the state, “I can tell you that I personally know every major leader in the pro-life movement in the country and not a single one of them would agree with this statement.”