By Sara Burnett | Associated Press
Donald Trump faces new backlash from anti-abortion activists for refusing to commit to nationwide abortion restrictions and calling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing a “terrible mistake” , a six-week ban on the procedure.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Trump repeatedly declined to say whether he would support a federal ban on abortion. He said he could “live with” whether the procedure was banned by individual states or nationally through federal action, although he said “from a legal standpoint, I think it is probably best” that it be managed at the state level.
Regarding the bill signed by DeSantis, which bans abortion before many women know they are pregnant, Trump said: “I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake. »
So far, the former president has dominated the 2024 campaign, while sometimes dismissing anti-abortion groups that traditionally have enormous influence in Republican primaries. But Trump’s direct attack on DeSantis, whom he has long treated as his main rival, could breathe new life into the Florida governor as he tries to regain momentum in his campaign and consolidate his second-place finish .
On If you want to defeat the Democrats in 2024, (DeSantis) is the only choice.”
Another campaign spokesman, Andrew Romeo, distributed to reporters a list of conservative groups criticizing Trump and accusing him of repeatedly compromising with Democrats.
“Republicans across the country know that Ron DeSantis will never back down,” Romeo said.
The nation’s largest anti-abortion organization, which supports a national ban on abortions at 15 weeks of gestation, quickly issued a statement saying any less restrictive measure “makes no sense.”
“We are at a time when we need a human rights advocate, someone dedicated to saving children’s lives and serving mothers in need. Every candidate needs to be clear about how they plan to accomplish this,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade left it up to states to decide whether and how to restrict abortion, creating a patchwork of laws across the country, with most Republican-led states imposing new restrictions and Democratic-led states adopting protections. . Twenty-five million women of childbearing age now live in states where abortion is more difficult to obtain than before the ruling.
Trump approached abortion from a political perspective, saying the Supreme Court’s decision gave conservatives room to negotiate new restrictions. He argued that Republican push for abortion restrictions hurt the Republican Party in the 2022 midterm elections and that Republican Party candidates need to do a better job of explaining the problem.
A ban on abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, as passed in Florida earlier this year, is unpopular with the American public, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted in June. The poll found that 73 percent of all U.S. adults believe abortion should be allowed up to six weeks of pregnancy, when fetal heart activity can be detected and before women often know that they are pregnant. About half of Americans believe abortions should be allowed up to 15 weeks.
In that poll, 56% of Republicans said abortion should be allowed in their state up to 6 weeks and 29% supported making the procedure legal up to 15 weeks.
But in Iowa’s inaugural Republican caucus, evangelicals and other social conservatives who strongly oppose abortion make up the majority of those participating and deciding the winner. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an abortion ban similar to Florida’s this summer. Reynolds did not endorse any candidate.
Trump called himself “the most pro-life president in American history” and noted that three of his Supreme Court picks were part of the conservative majority that overturned Roe.
He has so far refused to side with some of his rivals, including his former vice president, Mike Pence, who is pushing for nationwide bans that would take effect relatively early in pregnancy.
Interviews with Republican voters and activists in recent months suggest a divide between people happy with Trump’s record during his term and others who want Trump to endorse a national abortion ban.
Some Republicans in some key states, including those who support his rivals, expressed displeasure after the interview.
Among them was South Carolina state Rep. John McCravy, who sponsored the most recent restrictive abortion measure, which bans the practice in his state after about six weeks of pregnancy. South Carolina will be among the first states to choose a candidate. McCravy described himself in an interview as “certainly disappointed.”
“It seemed completely out of step with his strong support for life when he was president,” he said.
McCravy supported South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, but told AP last week: “Trump would probably be close behind, given his Supreme Court appointments and participation at the March for Life rally in Washington.
Kristen Wagoner, CEO of the conservative legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, also took issue with the decision.
“Laws protecting unborn children are not a “terrible mistake.” They are the mark of a just and moral society,” she wrote on X. “Governors who protect life should be applauded, not attacked. »
Burnett reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Michelle L. Price in New York contributed to this report.