Trump is silent on abortion as the 24-year-old’s campaign moves forward

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — No elected Republican has done more to limit abortion rights in the United States than Donald Trump..

But in the early days of the 2024 presidential race, no Republican has worked harder to avoid the issue than the former president. Far more than his rivals, Trump is sidestepping the issue just nine months after he and his party celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strip women of their constitutional right to abortion..

Look no further than Trump’s visit to Iowa last week for evidence of his delicate balancing act.

After he stepped off the plane near Davenport, Trump repeatedly refused to say whether he would support a federal law restricting abortion in all states, a move that anti-abortion activists have been demanding of GOP presidential candidates.

“We’re looking at a lot of different things,” Trump said when asked twice by The Associated Press whether he supports a federal ban on abortion.

The former president quickly turned to immigration, the economy and “far-left lunatics.” In the hours that followed, he never mentioned the word “abortion” as he spoke to Iowans in a diner, delivered an hour-long speech and took nearly a dozen questions from constituents.

Trump enters the GOP primary in a strong position. But he faces a number of challenges in the coming weeks, especially as the legal investigation surrounding the former president heats up. In a social media post this weekend, Trump said he expected to be arrested This week, as a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments to women who reported sexual encounters with the former president. However, Manhattan prosecutors have had no direct ties to Trump, leaving the timeline for potential charges unclear.

But the ultra-cautious approach to abortion reflects a new political reality for Republicans In this presidential season.

Party leaders acknowledge that the GOP’s stunning success in persuading Trump’s reshuffled Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade last June ultimately sparked a backlash that helped Democrats in November’s midterm elections. And while the political landscape in 2024 is far from settled, leaders in both parties acknowledge that few issues may be more important in electing the next president than abortion.

Meanwhile, access to abortions is disappearing across America.

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Since the Supreme Court struck down Roe just nine months ago, 24 states have banned abortion outright or are likely to do so, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Other states with Republican-controlled legislatures, including Florida, are moving toward more restrictive laws banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The next step, according to anti-abortion leaders who are already playing a vocal role in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, is to pass a federal law that would force abortion restrictions on all states.

Majorie Dannenfelser, who heads the socially conservative organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, is pushing for a law that would ban abortions nationwide at 15 weeks of gestation — if not sooner. He said he has spoken personally with most of the GOP field of prospects, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.And believes they will all receive such a federal ban.

And while he’s generally pleased with conversations with the 2024 field, he’s noted Trump’s lack of public commitment to continuing abortion restrictions in recent weeks.

“No one gets a pass,” Dannenfelser said, acknowledging that Roe would not have been overturned without Trump’s three Supreme Court appointments. “With Trump, it’s his legacy. It’s something I believe he’ll get right, but he’s obviously doing some soul-searching right now.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s rivals in the new presidential primary field aren’t shying away from aggressive abortion plans as they woo voters.

In Florida, a DeSantis-backed measure to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they’re pregnant — is moving through the Republican-controlled state legislature. Democrats there admit there is little they can do to prevent the bill from becoming law, which DeSantis is using to bolster his conservative credentials ahead of a presidential announcement expected in the coming months.

Former Vice President Mike PenceAnother presumptive 2024 candidate, a longtime supporter of religious conservatism, has been one of the GOP’s most aggressive anti-abortion voices since the Supreme Court decision. In the wake of recent weeks of campaigning, he has underlined his commitment to moving forward.

Last month in New Hampshire, a state long known for championing abortion rights, Pence publicly pledged to support a federal abortion ban if elected.

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“If I were in the United States Congress or at work on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue and they put a policy in front of me to restrict abortion in the country, I would definitely support it,” Pence said. Radio interview. He added that each state will probably decide on this issue.

Nikki Halewho launched his Republican presidential candidacy a month ago, also believes that the issue will be resolved at the state level, regardless of his personal wishes.

He discussed the possibility of a 15-week federal ban in a February interview on the “Today” show. In a New Hampshire radio interview earlier this month, he reminded voters that he signed the 20-week ban into law when he was governor of South Carolina.

“I can tell you that if it were up to me, every state would be pro-life,” Haley said. “But I think people have to decide that.”

South Carolina Senator Tim ScottAnother presumptive Republican prospect in 2024 celebrated a Supreme Court roe switch with his party last summer. Last fall, he headlined a gala for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which is fighting for a federal ban.

Democrats are closely watching Republican candidates for the White House, knowing that aggressive anti-abortion rhetoric and policies are likely to alienate key groups of voters — especially suburban voters — in the 2024 general election.

“Republicans will not be able to hide their extremist anti-abortion agenda in the 2024 presidential election,” said Alexandra De Luca of American Bridge, a pro-Democrat super PAC. “American Bridge and the Democratic Party will strike Republican presidential candidates early and often, making it impossible for them to back down on their extremist views during the general election.”

More than his Republican opponents, Trump seems well aware of such political risks.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, he has tried to persuade some of his preferred candidates to abandon their hard-line abortion positions — especially those who opposed exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.

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However, by distancing himself from his aggressive anti-abortion policies, Trump is opening himself up to new challenges with religious conservatives.

Already, some evangelical leaders have been reticent about their endorsement. Trump said such moves are “a sign of disloyalty” in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Broad. And he accused anti-abortion leaders of not doing enough to help GOP candidates in the midterm elections, which didn’t sit well with some evangelicals.

Bob Vander Plaats, president of Iowa Family Leaders, said abortion remains a “character-defining issue” that helps voters determine whether they can trust candidates.

For now, he said, it’s unclear whether evangelicals can trust Trump in 2024.

“While we’re thrilled that he gave us a justice to overrule Roe v. Wade, and we’re thrilled that he did something else on abortion, frankly, I think there’s a big question mark there,” Vander Platts said. . “Where is he on sanctity of life? Does he really believe what he says he believes? When he goes around and when he doesn’t want to talk about it and when he throws the pro-life community under the bus, it gives us even more reason to pause.”

The Trump campaign pushed back against such concerns.

Campaign spokesman Stephen Chung listed Trump’s “unparalleled” record on abortion, highlighting Trump’s Supreme Court nominations, his moves to block taxpayer-funded abortions and his decision to reinstate the Mexico City policy that required NGOs as a condition of funding not to promote . Abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

“There has been no greater advocate for the movement than President Trump,” he said.


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida contributed to this report.

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