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Trump Declines to Endorse a Nationwide Abortion Ban, Says It Should Be Up to States

4 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Former President Donald Trump has opted not to endorse a nationwide abortion ban, instead asserting that the decision should be left to individual states—a stance that diverges from the desires of many religious conservatives.

“My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land,” Trump said in a campaign video on Monday. “Many states will be different… At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.”

Trump’s position is likely to disappoint members of his Republican base who have been urging him to advocate for stricter abortion regulations. He campaigned on the issue in 2016 and has since become a champion of the anti-abortion movement, but has waffled on the issue as Democrats have made abortion a central fight in the 2024 presidential election. Democrats continue to hold Trump accountable for the 2022 Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to abortion. “Donald Trump made it clear once again today that he is—more than anyone in America— the person responsible for ending Roe v. Wade,” President Joe Biden said in a campaign statement responding to Trump’s abortion comments.

In the video, Trump took credit for the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, saying that he was “proudly the person responsible” for overturning the constitutional right to abortion and commending the three conservative justices he appointed to the Supreme Court for having the “courage to allow this long term hard fought battle to finally end.” While the presumptive Republican presidential nominee previously hinted he might support an abortion ban after a certain number of weeks of pregnancy, possibly 15 or 16, his new position is that the abortion debate belongs in the states.

Critics swiftly responded to Trump’s stance. The president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America argued Monday that by relinquishing a national stance on abortion, Trump was effectively conceding the debate to Democrats and jeopardizing states’ rights. “Unborn children and their mothers deserve national protections and national advocacy from the brutality of the abortion industry,” the group’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

In nearly two years since the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, several Republican-led states have moved to enact stringent restrictions on abortion, including a six-week ban in Florida that Trump has said was a “terrible mistake.” Other states have implemented regulations limiting the procedure after a certain gestational period, while some Democratic-leaning states have also passed laws or ballot measures to safeguard broader access to abortion.

Trump began his video by affirming his support for in-vitro fertilization (IVF), a process that involves fertilizing eggs outside the womb to induce a pregnancy. IVF became a flashpoint in the national debate on reproductive rights after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in February that embryos are considered children, raising questions about the legality of the widely-used treatment and whether Alabama doctors who dispose of fertilized eggs could be held liable. “We want to make it easier for mothers and families to have babies, not harder,” Trump said, praising Alabama Republicans for passing a law to protect IVF in the state after the controversial ruling.

Abortion remains a focal point in the 2024 presidential election, with Biden championing nationwide abortion access, including through medication abortion options like mifepristone. Democrats have utilized abortion rights to mobilize their base and drive voter turnout in various candidate and referendum elections across the country. “I am determined to restore the federal protections of Roe v. Wade,” Biden said in his Monday statement. “So it won't matter where you live in America: The fundamental right to choose for women will once again be the law of the land.”

After Republicans underperformed in the 2022 midterm elections, Trump blamed the losses on the party’s abortion stance and has repeatedly highlighted Republicans’ political vulnerability of the issue. “It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions,” he posted on social media after that election.

Trump has declined to comment on whether he would sign a federal abortion ban into law if Congress passes one, though as President he backed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

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Write to Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com