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Nikki Haley calls for ‘national consensus’ on abortion

GOP presidential hopeful says issue should not be demonized

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announces her presidential campaign in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 15.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announces her presidential campaign in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 15. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador who is running for president, said the nation’s next top executive will need to find a “national consensus” on abortion, a topic Republicans have struggled to respond to since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. 

In a roughly 20-minute speech Tuesday at the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America headquarters, Haley said she is “unapologetic” about being against abortion, but said the issue should be approached with respect, rather than demonizing the opposing side. 

“Abortion is a deeply personal topic for both women and men. I understand why someone’s body and someone else’s life are not things to be taken lightly, and they should not be politicized,” she said. “Most people have a story that has brought them to their views about abortion.” 

Haley said her personal views on abortion are shaped by her husband, who was adopted, and by the couple’s struggle to have children. She said she understands the challenges of pregnancy and that she would never “downplay [the] difficulties” of people who have unwanted pregnancies. 

She said that finding consensus on abortion would be difficult, but outlined several areas where she said there is already agreement, such as ensuring babies born during a failed abortion receive medical care, that mothers shouldn’t be pressured into having abortions and that more should be done to make adoption easier. 

Still, Haley acknowledged that any president would have an essentially impossible time passing new abortion restrictions through Congress. She criticized Democrats for what she described as fear mongering, saying they “know as well as anyone that no Republican president will have the ability to ban abortion nationwide.”

She also told the story of the 2015 effort when she was governor to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds after the shooting at Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel church. 

‘Saving babies and supporting moms’

“What was true then with the flag can be true now with abortion,” Haley said. “This shouldn’t be about one movement winning and another one losing. This shouldn’t be about picking sides, scoring points or stoking outrage. It’s about saving babies and supporting moms.”

Haley did not take questions or offer details about when in a pregnancy states should ban abortion, or what exceptions to abortion bans she supports.

The speech comes days after the Supreme Court put a hold on lower court rulings that would have limited the use of mifepristone, a commonly used abortion medication drug, while a court case challenging its Food and Drug Administration approval advances through the legal system. Democrats have continued to focus on abortion as a political message since the Dobbs ruling last June overturning Roe v. Wade pushed the topic to the forefront of last year’s midterm elections. 

Several Republican-led states have passed laws in recent months limiting the number of weeks of a pregnancy that a woman can get an abortion. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch a presidential campaign, earlier this month signed into law a bill banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a point at which a woman may not know she is pregnant. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who is also considering a run, has said he would sign a 20-week ban into law. 

Last week, SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser called out former President Donald Trump by name in a statement for comments his campaign made to The Washington Post, saying that Trump’s “assertion that the Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion solely to the states is a completely inaccurate reading of the Dobbs decision.”

Dannenfelser has said the group will oppose any presidential candidate who does not embrace a 15-week abortion ban, at minimum. She may have been referring to that statement on Tuesday when she introduced Haley, noting that after the court gave abortion opponents more power, many elected officials “can’t seem to find their voices.”

“We at SBA are making sure voters are clear on how all presidential candidates will advocate for the lives of unborn children and their mothers, or not,” she said.

Democrats: Haley masking stance

Democrats said Haley’s efforts to soften the tone around how Republicans talk about abortion was disingenuous, noting that as governor she signed a law blocking women from having an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy without exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The law did include exceptions for when a mother’s life is threatened or in the case of a “fetal anomaly” that would prevent a fetus from surviving outside the womb.

Jenny Lawson, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, said in a statement that Haley was “bending over backwards” to mask her views on abortion. 

“It’s no surprise Nikki Haley is the latest MAGA Republican endorsing a national abortion ban — since she’s already signed an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest that threatened to throw doctors and nurses in jail,” Democratic National Committee spokesperson Rhyan Lake said in a statement. “2024 Republicans are clamoring to prove they’d be the most extreme, anti-choice nominee in history in a desperate chase to out-MAGA each other, and they’ll stop at nothing to completely ban abortion nationwide.”

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