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Trump’s interest in national abortion ban fires up both sides

Trump pushes back on the report, with his campaign calling it “fake news”

A report that former President Donald Trump privately endorsed a 16-week national abortion ban spurred excitement from anti-abortion groups and could be a boon for Democrats.
A report that former President Donald Trump privately endorsed a 16-week national abortion ban spurred excitement from anti-abortion groups and could be a boon for Democrats. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Reports that Donald Trump plans to endorse a 16-week national abortion ban quickly exacerbated the pending political battle on abortion policy to come during the 2024 presidential campaign, with advocates on both sides seeing the report as advantageous to their side.

A New York Times report Friday that Trump plans to endorse a national ban after the GOP presidential primary spurred a flurry of action from advocacy groups on both sides of the debate. According to the report, the ban would include exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. 

Trump quickly pushed back on the report, with his campaign calling the report “fake” news in a statement released Friday afternoon. Instead, they said Trump planned to “sit down with both sides and negotiate a deal everyone will be happy with.” The campaign did not provide any further details. 

Historically, Trump has vacillated on the idea of a national abortion ban, occasionally telling pundits that the issue should be left to the states, then taking credit for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and calling himself “the most pro-life president in history.”

His hesitance has mirrored the GOP’s:  Ever since the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, every candidate who has run on a platform of expanding abortion rights has won their races and every ballot initiative dealing with reproductive rights has gone in favor of expanding access to care.

Meanwhile, a 16-week abortion ban, with exceptions, closely mirrors the kinds of reproductive policy anti-abortion groups have been trying to get presidential candidates to coalesce around.

The Times report thrilled the anti-abortion movement. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America’s President Marjorie Dannenfelser praised Trump’s positions, arguing that “a majority of Americans support this compassionate position.” She pointed to a 2023 Harvard-Harris poll that found 73 percent of voters would limit abortion to 15 weeks gestation. 

The news could be a boon for the Biden-Harris campaign, which has consistently used its pro-abortion stance to rally voters and hopes to codify abortion rights — though the Senate’s narrow Democratic majority makes that unlikely. The campaign put out a fundraising email highlighting the report Friday afternoon.

“Time and time again, voters have made it clear they trust women,” Biden-Harris 2024 campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez told reporters on Friday. “November won’t be any different.”

President Joe Biden also reacted, saying in a statement, “Donald Trump is running to rip away your rights. Kamala and I are running to protect them.”

Pro-abortion groups say Trump’s latest stance is unsurprising, given that he helped overturn Roe by appointing multiple anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court. 

Reproductive Freedom For All President and CEO Mini Timmaraju said during a Friday press call that Trump is trying to “masquerade” as moderate during the primaries. 

“The majority of Americans strongly support abortion rights. We must elect leaders this year who reflect our values and push to restore abortion access in every state across the country. The only way we can stop extreme bans is to elect a president, and a House and Senate, that will pass federal legislation to protect abortion rights and reproductive freedom — voters deserve nothing less,” Deirdre Schifeling, chief political and advocacy officer at the ACLU, said in an emailed statement.

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