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RNC softens platform stance on abortion

Change comes one week before Republican National Convention

Then-President Donald Trump at the White House on Oct. 10, 2019. The Republican National Committee is poised to formally adopt a 2024 platform that largely leaves abortion rights to states.
Then-President Donald Trump at the White House on Oct. 10, 2019. The Republican National Committee is poised to formally adopt a 2024 platform that largely leaves abortion rights to states. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican National Committee softened its stance on abortion in a draft measure adopted by a committee Monday, agreeing to a platform that no longer calls for federal limits on abortion.

The move — a dramatic shift for the party, made two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — comes a week before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where former President Donald Trump is expected to accept GOP’s presidential nomination.

Trump, who received high praise for his policy actions related to abortion during his presidency, has been more evasive this cycle regarding topics like national limits and exceptions to state bans. He also distanced himself from Project 2025, a conservative-led transition project which calls for a number of new abortion restrictions.

The softer stance on abortion also comes as voters have appeared to reject an all-out ban on abortion. Voters have backed abortion rights on all seven abortion-related state ballot initiatives since the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision — even in states where Republicans control the majority of the state government. 

Nationally, Democrats have made protecting and expanding abortion access their key campaign issue for 2024, with President Joe Biden kicking off his campaign with an event focused on restoring Roe v. Wade. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., announced another vote on reproductive rights on Monday, part of a larger messsaging strategy.

The 2024 GOP platform, released Monday, is shorter and more limited on specific asks related to abortion issues compared to previous platforms.

The platform specifically calls on states, rather than Congress, to weigh in on issues pertaining to life. It cites the 14th Amendment, which grants equal rights to all U.S. citizens, asserting that  “the States are, therefore, free to pass Laws protecting those Rights. “

By contrast, the 2016 platform called for Congress to pass legislation that would bar abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and prohibit sex-selective and disability-related abortions. That platform also opposed embryonic stem cell research and federal funding for abortion.

Republicans declined to adopt a new platform in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2024 GOP platform’s only other mention of abortion also calls for state-led action.

“After 51 years, because of us, that power has been given to the States and to a vote of the People. We will oppose Late Term Abortion, while supporting mothers and policies that advance Prenatal Care, access to Birth Control, and IVF (fertility treatments),” reads the platform.

Abortion opponents largely praised the document, despite the pared down mentions of abortion policy and reference to IVF, which has seen split support among anti-abortion groups.

SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said it was “important that the GOP reaffirmed its commitment to protect unborn life today.”

Her group and its affiliates have pledged to spend $92 million this cycle and are in the midst of their largest voter outreach program. 

“The Republican Party remains strongly pro-life at the national level,” said Dannenfelser, who has repeatedly said that candidates that avoid these issues are less likely to win. “The mission of the pro-life movement, for the next six months, must be to defeat the Biden-Harris extreme abortion agenda.”

The Biden-Harris campaign criticized the GOP platform, saying it does not negate Trump’s prior statements on the issue.

“He promised to be ‘leading the charge’ to ban abortion nationwide, and said he’d fight ‘side by side’ with extremists who want to ban abortion entirely,” said Sarafina Chitika, a Biden-Harris 2024 spokesperson. “Despite Trump and his team’s best efforts, the American people are clear on just how far he would go to rip away their freedoms – and they’ll vote accordingly this November.”