Donald Trump considers a federal abortion ban so toxic in a general election that he dodges the question of whether he would sign one as president like his life (potentially behind bars) depends on it.
But Trump, with his special brand of braggadocio, loves nothing more than reminding Republican fundies that he—and only he—managed to eviscerate Roe v. Wade by packing the high court with anti-abortion zealots.
“No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have,” Trump told attendees of the Faith & Freedom Coalition gala in Washington on Saturday night. “I got it done, and nobody thought it was even a possibility.”
Over the last several months, Trump has given Democrats more attack ad fodder on abortion than they could ever have hoped for. In mid-May, Trump took to his social media platform, writing, “After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade."
A week earlier, during a high-profile CNN town hall appearance, Trump boasted about packing the Supreme Court with forced birther radicals: "I’m so proud of it. We put three great justices on the Supreme Court."
Trump's trail of breadcrumbs to the scene of the crime are just one small part of the GOP presidential candidates' race to the right of the country on abortion policy. By the time Trump's challengers are done trying to outflank him on stripping pregnant Americans of fundamental freedoms, they'll be taking a blood oath with the nation's premier forced birther group, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, during a televised revival ceremony.
Trump's chief rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has been playing up the six-week ban he signed into law in the dead of night in April—particularly in Iowa, where evangelicals wield extraordinary power in the state's first-in-the-nation Republican caucus.
"We have enacted the 'heartbeat bill,' which has the strongest pro-life protections," DeSantis told a crowd of some 500 in Cedar Rapids in late May. "We're also embracing the importance of fatherhood."
At the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, DeSantis framed the near-total ban as "the right thing to do," adding, "Don't let anyone tell you it wasn't"—a swipe at Trump for suggesting the ban was "too harsh."
Former Vice President Mike Pence also took his shot at the Faith and Freedom conference, challenging each of his 2024 opponents to back a 15-week abortion ban as "a minimum nationwide standard.”
“We must not rest and must not relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state," Pence said to cheers from attendees.
Pence has said he would happily sign a six-week ban, but some national forced birther groups are attempting to coalesce the party around a 15-week ban, framing it as a more palatable option to stricter bans.
Don't worry, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is here to help, telling a local newspaper that he plans to reintroduce the national 15-week abortion ban, despite all of his colleagues scattering like pigeons from it last cycle.
“Some Republicans say abortion is a states’ rights issue. I reject that,” Graham told The Post and Courier.
In the meantime, two of Graham's South Carolina counterparts have been trying to find their lane on abortion. In April, former UN Ambassador and Palmetto State Gov. Nikki Haley gave what she billed as a major policy speech on the issue during which she refused to take a stance on a national ban and instead called for "consensus." It was frankly a bizarre missed opportunity for the only announced female candidate in the field. Haley eventually told a New Hampshire voter she would sign a national ban.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina bumbled around on abortion shortly after announcing his bid before finally settling on this: "I would sign the most conservative pro-life legislation you can bring to my desk.” As a true believer himself, Scott’s play for evangelicals in Iowa does seem to be getting some traction. A June 10-12 likely voter survey conducted by McLaughlin & Associates found Scott shooting up to third place in the Hawkeye State, at 9%, behind Trump (51%) and DeSantis (19%).
But whatever GOP candidates might say in Iowa or in front of the Faith and Freedom crusaders, abortion is the last thing they want to discuss anywhere else. A wealth of polling over the past week shows just how fraught the GOP attack on reproductive rights and health care is:
A CBS/YouGov poll found 63% of Americans oppose a federal law banning abortions nationwide, while just 37% support it.
In the same poll, 53% of women say the overturning of Roe has made being pregnant in the U.S. more dangerous.
By more than 5-1 (28%-5%), independent women said they had grown more supportive of abortion rights since Roe fell, according to a USA Today/Suffolk poll.
In the same poll, 80% of Americans said they oppose a nationwide abortion ban (including 83% of independents and even 65% of Republicans)—an even bigger rejection of a national ban than the CBS/YouGov poll found.
And let's not forget races where the polling met the ballot box, such as the emphatic 11-point win of pro-choice Wisconsin judge Janet Protasiewicz over a pro-life opponent in the April race for an open state Supreme Court seat. Or the resounding 18-point rejection last year of a Kansas constitutional amendment banning abortion.
Trump's dodge on a national ban is telling even as he piles up incriminating sound bites. DeSantis dodges the issue in New Hampshire, the "live free or die" state. Republican strategists, speaking anonymously with Politico, were more forthcoming, with one calling the issue "terrible" and another lamenting, “Oh, God, you’re gonna make me talk about abortion, aren’t you?”