Where 2024 GOP Candidates Stand on Abortion: No Time to Run and Hide as Election Looms Large
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GOP candidates appear to be backing away from the life issue while Democrats double down on pro-abortion rhetoric. Do Republican and Independent voters want to slow down or capitalize on the fall of Roe v. Wade?
Since the end of Roe v. Wade, the abortion issue has become a bit more politically complicated for the GOP. The lack of a cohesive message following the Supreme Court decision cost them some midterm races. Now, candidates must figure out how to be pro-life while also not turning off swing voters.
Former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tells CBN News it's been an overall passive strategy. "They never go on offense on this issue," McEnany tells CBN News. "They tend to hide from it rather than giving an optimistic and loving view for how we as a party treat life and the heartbeat and the child, but they always stay on their heels and avoid the topic. And when they do talk about it, they never go on offense and ask the left 'Where do you draw the line?'"
That often leaves Republican politicians, especially those running for president, facing questions about where they stand on a federal abortion ban. Their answers vary.
President Trump supported a 20-week ban while in the White House. Now, as a candidate, he plans to negotiate the best deal.
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"Some people are at 6 weeks, some people are at 3 weeks, 2 weeks," the former president said recently at a CNN Town Hall. "President Trump is going to make a determination what he thinks is great for the country and what is fair for the country."
Recently, Trump suggested the 6-week abortion ban in Florida signed by GOP presidential candidate Governor Ron DeSantis may have been too harsh, leading to a quick response.
"I think that as a Florida resident, you know, he didn't give an answer about 'Would you have signed the heartbeat bill that Florida did?'" DeSantis recently told reporters. "It had all the exceptions that people talk about. The legislature put it in. I signed the bill. I was proud to do it. He won't answer whether he would sign it or not."
From a political perspective, the squabbling over bans ranges from how many weeks to just simply staying away from that part of the issue.
GOP presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott supports a 20-week ban; and recently, GOP presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson told CBN News there's a reason the GOP should act at the federal level.
"I would like to see this resolved at the state level, but I know the Democrats," Hutchinson says. "If they get control of Congress, they're going to have a national abortion standard that opens up the floodgates for abortion. Republicans, if we actually win control of both houses, we have an opportunity to set a national standard on that. If Congress did act on that, and it protected life, and it had the appropriate exceptions in place, then I would sign that bill."
On that subject, Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley is taking a wait-and-see attitude. While staunchly pro-life, she says when it comes to a federal ban, you need to be realistic.
"Let's be honest with the American people," Haley tells CBN News. "Let's be honest that no Republican can ban all abortions because we are not even close to 60 votes in the Senate. We're at 45. We haven't had 60 in over 100 years. No Democrat can ban all these life laws that are happening in the states, because they're not even close to 60 votes. So if we're going to talk about any legislation at the federal level, let's start with consensus."
National pro-life groups point to a clear consensus, citing polls that show more than seven in ten Americans oppose abortion after 15 weeks. That includes 75% of women and 70% of Independents.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, says the GOP needs to stop running away from the issue. "The political malpractice of the ostrich strategy can not happen again," Dannenfelser tells CBN News. "That is political malpractice that if we see happening in a presidential race in the future, we'll see a Democrat president in the Oval Office."
So then what does she think the Republican strategy should be going forward?
"If I were a candidate, I would be saying the 15 week minimum standard isn't all that we want but it is consensus in this country contrasted with your position, 'Democrat pro-abortion candidate.' It is a winning issue every single time to contrast 15 weeks with unlimited abortion up until the end paid for by taxpayers. That's what they ought to be saying."
Dannenfelser adds that includes pro-life congressmen who supported a federal abortion ban before the Roe v. Wade reversal. Now, they see it as a states' rights issue and she says that's not nearly enough.
"Sitting back and waiting means death to children and it means women don't get the love and service that they actually need," Dannenfelser says. "So if you're a senator and you say this is a states' rights only position, then the position of the pro-life movement is we can not support you."
The nation will be watching how it all unfolds as we get closer to 2024.
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