CV NEWS FEED // Former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is facing backlash from pro-life leaders after issuing a statement suggesting abortion legislation is a matter best left at the state level.
A Thursday column at The Washington Post decried legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL, which protects unborn babies from abortions after six weeks of gestation. The column contrasted DeSantis’ outspokenness about abortion with the relative reticence of the Trump campaign.
“Former president Donald Trump has barely spoken about the issue, telling advisers that he believes it is a difficult one for Republicans and not something he should focus his time on,” the column claimed:
His campaign did not directly answer whether Trump agreed with the six-week ban in Florida or what policies he would support nationally but instead said Trump believes the issue should be left up to individual states. “States’ rights,” Trump has said privately when advisers have floated the issue, adding his assessment that they should not talk about it.
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung issued a brief statement to the Post saying that Trump “believes that the Supreme Court, led by the three Justices which he supported, got it right when they ruled this is an issue that should be decided at the State level.”
“Republicans have been trying to get this done for 50 years, but were unable to do so,” the Trump campaign statement concluded:
President Trump, who is considered the most pro-life President in history, got it done. He will continue these policies when reelected to the White House. Like President Reagan before him, President Trump supports exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
The campaign did not respond when the Post “[asked] again directly whether Trump agreed or disagreed with the law DeSantis signed.”
SBA Pro-Life America, a leading pro-life group that worked closely with Trump during his greatest pro-life achievements, on Thursday responded to the campaign’s statement.
“President Trump’s assertion that the Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion solely to the states is a completely inaccurate reading of the Dobbs decision and is a morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate to hold,” said SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser:
Life is a matter of human rights, not states’ rights. Saying that the issue should only be decided at the states is an endorsement of abortion up until the moment of birth, even brutal late-term abortions in states like California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey. The only way to save these children is through federal protections, such as a 15-week federal minimum standard when the unborn child can feel excruciating pain.
Dannenfelser added: “We will oppose any presidential candidate who refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard to stop painful late-term abortions while allowing states to enact further protections.”
She argued that the Supreme Court’s decision did not only return abortion legislation “to the states,” but “to the people to decide through their elected representatives in the states and in Congress [emphasis added].”
“Holding to the position that it is exclusively up to the states is an abdication of responsibility by anyone elected to federal office,” Dannenfelser concluded. “This holds especially true for the president, more than any other federal official, because he or she has a responsibility to forge national consensus and progress on the most egregious human rights violation of our time.”
Jon Schweppe, policy director at the American Principles Project, echoed Dannenfelser’s criticism of Trump’s position on Thursday. “Donald Trump just committed to ‘no federal role’ on the issue of abortion,” Schweppe tweeted. “In other words, he’s pro-choice now.”
The Post column also quoted Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, who indicated there are worries among pro-life groups that Trump may not have the “chops” on the issue of abortion that will be needed going into 2024.
“Abortion opponents were frustrated when Trump chose not to mention abortion in his November speech announcing his candidacy for president, despite the role he played in reshaping the Supreme Court,” the Post reported.
During a donor retreat in Nashville last weekend, Trump did not mention the issue at all in private meetings, according to audio and attendees. “His silence spoke very loudly to the pro-life movement,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of the national antiabortion group Students for Life. “We were pretty disappointed.”
Facing a presidential primary where hard-line activists and voters wield significant influence, Hawkins said, Republican candidates need to back some kind of national ban to be successful.
A “states’ rights” argument, she added, “is almost a guarantee that they’re not going to advance out of the primary.”
Schweppe warned that the “pro-life movement is ready to go to war” unless Trump amends the campaign statement.
“It’s pretty simple,” wrote Schweppe on Thursday. “If Trump doesn’t reverse this ASAP, social conservatives will have to oppose him — loudly and forcefully. This primary is about to get pretty ugly.”
CatholicVote Communications Director Joshua Mercer on Thursday argued that many Republican leaders have a poor grasp of the abortion issue.
“Beltway Republicans think that being pro-life is an albatross, but that’s just not true. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Texas Governor Greg Abbott both signed a heartbeat bill into law – and they were both reelected easily,” Mercer pointed out. “I was very disappointed that President Donald Trump blamed the lackluster 2022 congressional elections on abortion. And now he’s repeating this canard as a way to attack his potential 2024 rival. Trump is in danger of tarnishing his own strong pro-life legacy.”
Mercer added: “The establishment Republicans in Washington thought that the overturning of Roe v Wade meant that they could totally ignore the abortion issue and just sail to victory on pocketbook issues like inflation. But Republican leaders need to find a consensus position on abortion at the federal level or they will risk losing many pro-life voters.”