Trump, who helped prepare the way for the rollback of abortion rights protections at the federal level, has claimed that some Republicans “speak very inarticulately” about the subject and have advocated “terrible” state-level restrictions that might alienate much of the country.
In an interview with NBC, Trump avoided taking any firm stands on the issue of abortion, but he did say that, if re-elected, he would work to find middle ground on the questions of how far along in a pregnancy abortion should be permissible and whether or not federal or state authorities should have authority over such matters.
‘I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years,’ he said.
By pursuing abortion restrictions without making exceptions for rape, incest, or risks to the mother’s life, Trump warned Republicans that they would lose voters.
In his words, “you can’t – you’re not going to win on this issue” outside of a few select regions of the country.
For Republican presidential candidates in 2024, Trump’s comments highlighted the difficulty they would face in trying to please both their conservative base, for whom the Supreme Court’s June 2022 overturn of Roe v. Wade was a victory decades in the making, and the general electorate, which has consistently supported abortion rights, most recently in the 2022 midterms and the Wisconsin Supreme Court race this spring.
It’s possible that abortion will play a major role in the next state legislative elections in Virginia, which many see as a preview of voter sentiment in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
The three conservative Supreme Court justices appointed by Trump prepared the path for the overturn of a 1973 ruling that protected the right to abortion throughout the United States for the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
As a result of the reversal, abortion laws vary widely from state to state, with some, like those in Florida and Iowa (the first two voting states in the Republican presidential nomination process), prohibiting abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy.
Issue framing for the campaign
In the 2024 Republican primary, the issue of abortion rights has been a key point of contention. Mike Pence, Trump’s former VP, has called for a federal ban on abortions after the 15th week. Trump’s top polling opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has been touting the six-week ban he signed into law. Other candidates, such as Nikki Haley, have adopted more moderate stances on the issue of abortion, highlighting the potential political fallout for Republicans in the general electorate if they pursue tight abortion restrictions.
In an interview with NBC, Trump was quite critical of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, calling the state’s six-week moratorium “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”
The former president, though, would not state his own policy preferences. When asked if he would back a federal ban and, if so, after how many weeks, he sidestepped the topic, saying he’d rather leave it up to the states.
Trump stated, “What’s going to happen is you’re going to come up with a number of weeks or months, you’re going to come up with a number that’s going to make people happy.”
Trump stated that he thought it was “probably better” to let the states regulate abortion rather than pass federal law.
“I think it’s probably better from a purely legal and ethical sense. Trump responded, “But I can live with it either way.” I don’t care if it’s a federal or state issue.
The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting, attended by many of the state’s most prominent conservative evangelical activists, was dominated by an internal GOP fight over abortion.
One of the most outspoken Trump detractors among the GOP candidates, former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, told reporters in Iowa on Saturday that Trump has “taken evangelical voters for granted” and is “waffling on important issues.”
As Hutchinson put it, Trump “wants everybody to like him,” so he’s probably thinking about the abortion issue not from the perspective of whether or not it will earn evangelical support, but rather what that will look like in the future.
When pressed further on the possibility of a federal ban on abortion, DeSantis instead cited recent limits enacted in states like Iowa and Florida.
A pro-life governor, that’s me. DeSantis has pledged to be “pro-life” as president. Obviously, Iowa has been successful in moving the ball forward in terms of pro-life protections. The Gators have been able to advance the ball.
Reiterating his support for a nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Pence said, “It’s an idea whose time has come.” The abortion debate, he argued, should be left to the states, as Trump and the other GOP contenders want to do, “but I won’t have it.”
“Individualised for each and every girl and boy”
Others, including Haley, the ex-governor of South Carolina and current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, have tried to thread the same needle as Trump, but with less success.
On Saturday, Haley addressed the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa and told its guests that her views represent the “hard truth.” She warned that if a federal abortion restriction of 15 weeks was pursued, “everybody would be running from us.”
While Haley is opposed to abortion, she has made it clear that she thinks Republicans and Democrats need to come to an agreement on matters related to abortion, such as agreeing not to jail women who seek abortions and prohibiting subsequent abortions.
Every women and male may relate to this problem. And we ought to handle it as such. I don’t want people to judge me for being pro-life, and I don’t judge others for being pro-choice,” she stated.
During an appearance on AWN last week, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie stated he would sign a federal abortion ban “if it represented consensus,” despite the existing difficulties in obtaining such a consensus in the US Senate and among states.
Let’s see if there’s consensus, he added, and “I want all 50 states to be able to weigh in if they want to, and what their state laws should be.”
Meanwhile, abortion is being considered by Democrats as a potential deciding factor in the 2024 presidential race.
The reelection campaign of President Joe Biden made a digital ad buy earlier this month, as reported by AWN, to highlight the stances of Trump and the other GOP 2024 candidates on the topic.
Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement to AWN that the ad was meant to remind voters in states that have passed some of the most extreme abortion bans that Trump played a key role in appointing conservative justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.