Trump Announces Abortion Stance—And Biden, Democrats Aren’t Buying It

Topline

Former President Donald Trump announced Monday he believed abortion rights should be left up to the states—rejecting calls from the right to endorse a 15-week or stricter ban—though President Joe Biden and other abortion rights supporters argued Trump’s words are empty rhetoric and he’s still likely to enact abortion restrictions if reelected.

Key Facts

Trump said in a video message he believed that whatever states decide on abortion “must be the law of the land,” after previously suggesting he could back a nationwide 15-week ban, though he did not specify whether he would take action against abortion as president or veto a national abortion ban if Congress were to pass one.

Biden said in a statement Trump was “simply lying” with his comments about abortion, chastising the ex-president for falsely claiming there was a “groundswell of support” for overturning Roe v. Wade—polling suggests otherwise—and saying there shouldn’t be any “illusion” that Trump would veto a national abortion ban.

Abortion rights advocates also took aim at the ex-president’s comments, with Reproductive Freedom for All pointing out Trump’s multiple comments this year expressing openness to a national ban, arguing, “Trump can do all of the verbal gymnastics he wants, but he supports banning abortion in EVERY state.”

Reproductive rights legal expert Mary Ziegler noted Trump allies have previously said the ex-president would ban abortion nationwide if he’s reelected, arguing those comments and Trump’s “silence” on the matter “are enough to placate anti abortion voters/leaders while the campaign officially appears to ‘break’ with the movement.”

Congressional Democrats also expressed skepticism about Trump’s statement: Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Trump would “sign a national abortion ban into law—no matter how much he tries to deny it,” while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., responded, “Let’s wait a few weeks and see what his new position will be.”

Crucial Quote

“Having created the chaos of overturning Roe, [Trump is] trying to say, ‘Oh, never mind. Don’t punish me for that. I just want to win,’” Biden said Monday. “Trump is scrambling. He’s worried that since he’s the one responsible for overturning Roe the voters will hold him accountable in 2024. Well, I have news for Donald. They will.”

What We Don’t Know

What Trump would actually do on abortion if reelected. While the likelihood of Congress actually passing a nationwide ban is low, Trump could take other actions as president that would affect abortion access, such as appointing officials at agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or Food and Drug Administration that could take steps to curb abortion. Anti-abortion rights advocates have also urged Trump to use the Comstock Act—a 19th century law banning the mailing of anything related to abortion, which has laid dormant for years but remains on the books—to ban abortion nationwide. Former Trump administration HHS official Roger Severino told The Washington Post in January that Trump’s previous statements failing to back a national abortion ban aren’t an indication he wouldn’t restrict abortion while in office, saying, “I don’t see his previous statements as limiting [Trump’s] ability to be a strong pro-life president.”

Big Number

59%. That’s the share of respondents in a March Fox News poll who support abortion being legal, a record high in Fox News’ polling and a double-digit increase over the 44% who said the same in April 2022, before Roe was overturned.

Surprising Fact

Though anti-abortion rights groups opposed Trump’s statement Monday, they haven’t wavered in their support for the ex-president. Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List said it was “deeply disappointed” in Trump’s comments but still emphasized the group would “work tirelessly” to defeat Biden in November, for instance—even though the group’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser previously said last year it would oppose any candidate who “refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard.” Students for Life America President Kristan Hawkins said anti-abortion groups “clearly have some work to do to educate President Trump,” but she “can work with” his statement, encouraging supporters to back Trump’s reelection.

Key Background

Trump’s statement Monday came after months of speculation on his abortion stance ahead of the November election. Reports emerged in February suggesting Trump privately supported a 16-week ban and the ex-president said in March he believed “people are agreeing on” a 15-week limit, making his statement Monday somewhat of a surprise. Trump has a history of flip-flopping on his abortion views, previously supporting access to the procedure long before he ran for president before coming out against it in the 2016 election, even saying “there has to be some form of punishment” for people who get abortions. He then backed a 20-week ban while in office. Abortion has become a winning issue for Democrats since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022—with a slew of state ballot measures coming out in favor of abortion rights and Democratic wins in races where abortion was a central issue—and Trump has criticized other Republicans for pushing a politically unpopular stance, saying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a six-week ban into law was a “terrible mistake.”

Further Reading

MORE FROM FORBESTrump Wants To Leave Abortion Up To States-Ending Months Of Uncertainty On Position

MORE FROM FORBESHow Trump Could Use A 19th Century Law To Ban Abortion-Without Congress
MORE FROM FORBESTrump Signals Support For 15-Week Abortion Ban-But He Hasn’t Always Thought This Way
MORE FROM FORBESHow Americans Really Feel About Abortion: The Sometimes Surprising Poll Results One Year After Roe Overturned



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