Trump backed away from a nationwide abortion law, saying the issue was best left to the states.
That drew criticism from a large anti-abortion group and even Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham.
However, during the main 2024 At the GOP caucus in Iowa, evangelicals appeared to side with Trump.
CLIVE, Iowa. If there’s any constituency that might be angered by the idea of allowing states to set their own abortion laws, it would probably be evangelicals.
But at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual spring event on Saturday, former President Donald Trump drew little criticism for taking a stance that has made him the favorite of some 2024 candidates. on the left of competitors.
“Personally, if I could snap my fingers, it wouldn’t be allowed at all,” said Judy Kirby, 73, of Indianola, a retiree after the event. – But I have to be realistic.
“The states are like mini-countries,” said Kirby, who has said she’s backing Trump in 2024. “They have their own way of doing things and should be responsible for their decisions.”
And while addressing more than 1,000 attendees Saturday, other current and potential GOP 2024 presidential contenders, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Tim Scott of Florida, declined to draw a sharp contrast with Trump on abortion.
In fact, most people didn’t dwell on the issue at all, spending more time talking about other culture war issues like restricting gender reassignment surgeries.
Even Pence, who more than others in 2024 contenders who have spoken out against abortion, told reporters at the event that while he disagrees with Trump and would support federal restrictions on abortion, “this issue is more likely to be resolved at the state level. “.
Trump, for his part, addressed attendees via video stream — the only candidate to do so — pledging to “stand firm against the extreme, late-term abortionists in the Democratic Party” and pointing to the appointment of three Supreme Court justices who helped. overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
“They’re actually talking after birth, after birth, and they’re killing the baby,” Trump claimed.
—Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) March 2023 On April 23, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, both invited to the event, did not attend.
“He’s off track right now”
Republicans, fresh off losing midterm elections in part due to their opposition to abortion, continue to bicker among themselves over whether to push for further restrictions at the federal level.
In a statement to the Washington Post this week, a Trump spokesman said the former president “believes the Supreme Court, led by the three justices he supported, made the right decision when they ruled that this is an issue that should be decided by the states level. “.
The statement quickly upset many anti-abortion advocates.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group SBA Pro-Life America, released a statement calling Trump’s position “morally indefensible” but vowing to oppose any presidential candidate who does not at least support a 15-week abortion ban.
“To take the position that it’s solely up to the states is to abdicate responsibility for anyone elected to federal office,” Dannenfelser said. “This is especially true of the president.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a longtime Trump ally, issued a statement Friday arguing that the party should “must the courage to oppose late-term abortion” and pass a bill he introduced last year that would have banned abortion nationwide after 15 weeks. On Sunday, Graham had a heated exchange with the CNN host in which he accused the media of covering Democrats on abortion.
Maggie DeWitte, director of an Iowa anti-abortion group, had a sign that read “free babies.” Bryan Metzger/Insider Maggie DeWitte, executive director of the Iowa anti-abortion group Pulse Life Advocates, told Insider at the Clive event that Trump’s position was “absolutely wrong,” even as she praised his judicial appointments against his opponent. abortion movement to this point.
“We wouldn’t even be having the discussions we’re having right now if he hadn’t done that,” DeWitte said. “Having said all that, I think he’s out of sorts at this point.
DeWitte and other anti-abortion advocates say that in a post-Roe world, Republicans should seek to restrict abortion at both the state and federal levels.
They say it’s not only morally right, but politically expedient, citing a poll that showed a majority of voters would want their state to allow abortion at 15 weeks or less. But Democrats remain energized on the issue in a way that Republicans have not, contributing to a recent state Supreme Court win in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed a lower court ruling that would have blocked access to the abortion drug mifepristone nationwide, including in Democratic-led states where abortion remains legal. Republicans have been largely silent on the issue, weary of the potential political backlash.
“We need to convince more people”
Voters who spoke to Insider at the event in Clive seemed to understand the political implications of going too far on abortion, even as they voiced their strong opposition to the procedure.
Trump spoke virtually Saturday at an Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images Lyle Horman, 69, of Pella, Iowa, who says he is leaning toward supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said after the event that the 15-week nationwide ban was a “no-brainer.”
“We need to convince more people that living conditions are fair,” Horman said. “You’re just trying to impose your will, even if you have a majority – if a large part of the population doesn’t support it, it’s going to be very difficult to implement.”
Richard Woods, a 71-year-old retiree from east-central Iowa who described himself as “absolutely” pro-life, has even criticized those pushing for nationwide abortion restrictions, including Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“I wish he hadn’t proposed it,” Woods said, arguing that it “really rattled the opposition” and that more needs to be done to get Republicans to agree on the issue.
And Sharon Meredith, 82, of Des Moines, who says she’s excited about Vivek Ramaswamy’s presidential bid, said she’s “anti-abortion” but there are other pressing issues and Republicans need that first. to win.
“Our nation is in such trouble that we have to dig ourselves out of this hole we’re in,” Meredith said. “I don’t think we can necessarily die on that hill now.”
Meredith said she was more concerned about what she described as a “dual system of justice” in which the government targets conservatives, saying she was “all in favor” of funding the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I’d like to die on those hills if we do one big thing,” she said.