Trump Punts on Abortion, Deferring to Dobbs and Leaving It Up to States

Trump had recently floated a 15-week national ban, but he declined to take a position in a video posted to Truth Social Monday morning.

AP/Paul Sancya, file
Abortion rights protesters attend a rally outside the state Capitol at Lansing, Michigan, on June 24, 2022. AP/Paul Sancya, file

President Trump declined to take a stance on a federal abortion ban Monday morning, upsetting pro-life groups and failing to assuage concern from pro-choice moderates.

In a roughly four-minute video released to Truth Social, Mr. Trump celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade and said the issue will now be left to the states. This comes after Mr. Trump spent weeks teasing support for a 15- or 16-week national abortion ban.

“Many people have asked me what my position is on abortion and abortion rights, since I was proudly the person responsible for ending something all legal scholars – both sides — wanted and in fact demanded be ended: Roe v. Wade,” Mr. Trump said. “My view is that now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both.”

“Many states will be different. Many will have a different number of weeks or some will be more conservative than others,” Mr. Trump said. “At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.”

Mr. Trump also expressed his support for invitro fertilization and for exceptions to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. He compared his stance on these points to Ronald Reagan’s.

Anti-abortion activists were hoping Mr. Trump would come out in support of a national ban. The president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Marjorie Dansfeller, released a statement Monday morning condemning Mr. Trump’s stance.

“We are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position. Unborn children and their mothers deserve national protections,” Ms. Dansfeller said. “Saying the issue is back to the states’ cedes the national debate to the Democrats.”

President Biden is making preserving abortion rights a key part of his reelection strategy. It is smart politics. Since the Dobbs decision, Republicans have struggled at the ballot box. A majority of Americans support legalized abortion, according to Fox News polling, and that number has only grown since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The predicted “red wave” of 2022 didn’t happen in large part because of abortion. Even in the deep red states of Kansas and Kentucky, voters chose to protect abortion rights at the ballot box. When abortion was on the ballot in the swing state of Michigan in 2022, Democrats won a trifecta. 

Mr. Trump’s announcement comes one week after the Florida Supreme Court upheld Governor DeSantis’s 6-week abortion ban and greenlit putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to enshrine abortion rights in the state. Democrats are now saying they think Florida is winnable for Mr. Biden with abortion driving liberal turnout, despite the state trending red over the last few cycles and reelecting Mr. DeSantis by 20 points in 2022.

“Make no mistake: Florida is not an easy state to win, but it is a winnable one for President Biden,” a memo leaked last

week from Biden campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said.

Since Dobbs, 14 states have passed total bans on abortion,

with another handful limiting abortions in some capacity. Yet only 7 percent of Americans support making abortion illegal in all cases. Nearly 60 percent of Americans support legalized abortion in all or most cases, up from just 44 percent in April 2022, two months before Dobbs.

The Biden campaign was quick to pounce after Trump released his statement. “Donald Trump is endorsing every single abortion ban in the states, including abortion bans with no exceptions. And he’s bragging about his role in creating this hellscape,” a Biden campaign spokesman, Ammar Moussa, posted to X Monday morning.

“Independent voters will say it’s not the government’s business to tell us what to do in any circumstances, and a great example of that was certainly Kansas,” a Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, tells the Sun. “Crime and disorder can’t be allowed to trump abortion — no pun intended,” he said of the Democrats’ strategy.

Mr. Trump ran as a pro-life candidate in 2016 and 2020, but he has since softened his stance in interviews and blamed hardliners for Republican losses in 2022. During the Republican primaries, Mr. Trump called Mr. DeSantis’s 6-week Florida abortion ban “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” He vowed to “negotiate something” and said, “people are agreeing on 15 and I’m thinking in terms of that.”

“We’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years,” Mr. Trump told NBC News, touting his negotiating skills.

Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager and White House advisor, Kellyanne Conway, told Politico’s Deep Dive podcast last month that, “to show concession and consensus is really the way to go.” She said she thinks a 15- or 16-week abortion ban — she framed it as “a national minimum standard” — is palatable to most Americans. 

Mr. Trump, though, decided to punt on the issue. His announcement is an endorsement of the current status quo. In so doing, Mr. Trump is upsetting pro-life voters, though it’s unlikely any will vote for Mr. Biden instead.

Leaving it up to the states is also no consolation for independents who fear Mr. Trump will sign a national ban once in office. The latter part of Mr. Trump’s announcement was spent on the importance of Republicans winning elections.

“You must follow your heart of this issue, but remember, you must also win elections to restore our culture and in fact to save our country, which is currently and very sadly, a nation in decline,” Mr. Trump said.

The Sun spoke with several women ahead of Mr. Trump’s announcement, who all said the issue of abortion is more important now than before Dobbs. One woman expressed doubt that she could trust Mr. Trump’s campaign promises. “If he gets an abortion ban bill across his desk, I don’t see him not signing it,” she said.

The New York Sun

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