Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 17:04 pm (CNA).
Pro-life leaders condemned President Donald Trump for calling a six-week abortion ban a “terrible mistake” during a Saturday NBC interview.
Trump made the comments in reference to Florida’s six-week Heartbeat Protection Act abortion ban signed by his chief opponent in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
During Trump’s more than hourlong interview with Kristen Welker, he said: “DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban” and “I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”
“This is politically stupid,” Shawn Carney, founder and president of 40 Days for Life, told CNA. “No liberal will now vote for Trump because he’s less pro-life.”
Though Carney said that “Trump is accurately labeled as the most pro-life president ever, by far,” he “continues to alienate those who elected him and shrink his base.”
Carney, a Catholic, also added that “many pro-life Catholics were hesitant to vote for Trump in 2016 but the death of Justice [Antonin] Scalia and the importance of the court pushed them to give Trump a chance. It paid off greatly with the overturning of Roe but instead of bragging about his record, Trump has treated being pro-life as if it’s something we need to apologize for.”
“This is a loser disposition heading into the 2024 general election,” Carney said.
Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action and a prominent Catholic and pro-lifer, called Trump’s take “pathetic and unacceptable.”
“Trump is actively attacking the very pro-life laws made possible by Roe’s overturning,” Rose said Sunday on X.
“Heartbeat [six-week] laws have saved thousands of babies,” she posted. “But Trump wants to compromise on babies’ lives so pro-abort Dems ‘like him.’”
Rose, who has previously expressed support for DeSantis, went so far as to say that “Trump should not be the GOP nominee.”
What did Trump say?
After calling a six-week abortion ban a “terrible mistake,” Trump went on to say that he would focus on reaching a consensus between Republicans and Democrats on abortion.
Asked at what point of pregnancy he would ban abortion, Trump said: “We’ll come up with a number, but at the same time Democrats won’t be able to come in at six months, seven months, eight months and allow an abortion.”
The interview, which covered a wide range of topics, included a 10-minute segment on abortion.
During the segment, Welker asked: “How is it acceptable in America that women’s lives are at risk, doctors are being forced to turn away patients in need or risk breaking the law?”
“I did something that nobody thought was possible and Roe v. Wade was terminated, it was put back to the states. Now, people, pro-lifers have the right to negotiate for the first time, they have no rights at all,” Trump responded. “The radical people on this are really the Democrats that say that after five months, six months, seven months, eight months, nine months, and even after birth, you’re allowed to terminate the baby.”
When asked whether as president he would sign a national abortion ban, Trump said: “I’m going to come together with all groups and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable.”
Pressed further, Trump refused to say whether or not he would sign a 15-week abortion ban into law.
“I’m not going to say I would or I wouldn’t,” Trump said. “I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something and we’ll have peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”
Though saying that “we will agree to a number of weeks where both sides will be happy” and that “we have to bring the country together on this issue,” Trump also said “I frankly do not care” when asked if abortion should be a national or exclusively a states issue.
“Everybody, including the great legal scholars, love the idea of Roe v. Wade terminated so that it can be brought back to the states,” Trump said. “From a pure standpoint, from a legal standpoint, I believe it is probably much better, but I can live with it either way, the number of weeks is much more important.”
Trump also noted that abortion bans should include exceptions for rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother. He did not answer whether he believes an unborn child, referred to during the interview as simply a “fetus,” has constitutional rights.
Trump’s campaign did not respond to CNA’s request for clarification.
What do pro-lifers have to say?
Matt Walsh, a Catholic podcaster with the Daily Wire, said in Monday X post that Trump’s take is an “awful answer from a moral perspective.”
“There is nothing terrible about stopping the satanic abortion industry from mass murdering human children,” Walsh said.
“You can’t win over Democrats by going squishy on this issue. Republicans have tried that brilliant strategy for decades and accomplished exactly nothing by it,” he went on. “Defend life clearly and powerfully and unequivocally. That’s the only way.”
Harry Scherer, a representative for Americans United for Life, told CNA that “we owe protection to preborn Americans at every stage of gestation.”
Scherer categorically said: “Americans United for Life is proud to stand with pro-life governors and legislators enacting lifesaving legislation in their jurisdictions.”
Though many pro-life advocates condemned Trump’s latest abortion take, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told CNA that the former president’s stance is rooted in the difficult political landscape currently surrounding abortion.
“The most prudent course going forward is to choose restrictions, which most favor, and then try to persuade the public to opt for further restrictions the next time this issue is put to a vote,” Donohue asserted.
“It appears that this is what Trump may be getting at,” Donohue said.
“What makes no sense is to allow the pro-abortion side to appear as though they are not the real extremists,” Donohue went on.
“Most Americans want some restrictions on abortion, but when they are perceived as being too tight, they reject them,” Donohue said. “Ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned, states that are at least welcome to the pro-life message have drafted laws that have failed with voters in most instances, and that is because they are considered to be too restrictive.”
Erin Hawley, vice president of the Center for Life and Regulatory Practice with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA that “we support Florida’s efforts to enact its law protecting unborn babies the moment their hearts begin to beat, as well as numerous state efforts across the country that protect unborn life as much as possible and provide real support for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.”
“All life is valuable and deserves to be protected,” Hawley said.
In a Sunday post on X, Kristen Waggoner, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, said that “governors who protect life should be applauded, not attacked.”
“Laws protecting the unborn are not a ‘terrible mistake.’ They are the hallmark of a just and moral society,” Waggoner added.
What is the current law?
Abortion is fully banned in 14 states, according to data collected by Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Currently, all total abortion bans on the state level include exceptions for cases of preserving the life of the mother.
Additionally, 11 other states have varying levels of restrictions ranging from six-week bans, as in Georgia, to 20-week bans, as in Iowa.
The six-week ban signed by DeSantis and referenced by Trump during his NBC interview is currently blocked. Current active Florida law bans abortion after 15 weeks.
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