Watch CBS News

Trump says abortion should be left up to states, sidestepping calls to back federal restrictions

Trump says he's proud of role in Roe reversal
Trump says he's proud of role in overturning Roe v. Wade 02:40

Washington — Former President Donald Trump on Monday declined to endorse a federal abortion ban, saying that the issue should be left up to states despite encouragement from anti-abortion groups that he should back a national restriction. 

The former president has sent mixed signals on the issue for months, flirting with supporting a broader abortion ban amid dueling pressures from both Republicans and Democrats. While some in his party have made support for federal restrictions clear, Trump has on multiple occasions raised alarm about the trouble the issue has created for Republicans at the ballot box, while taking credit for the Supreme Court decision that overturned a constitutional right to an abortion. Sources close to Trump tell CBS News that he has privately called the abortion issue a political loser. 

President Biden and Democrats, meanwhile, have sought to make abortion rights one of the defining issues in the election. 

"My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land. In this case, the law of the state," Trump said in a video posted on Truth Social after teasing last week that he would release a statement. 

"At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people," Trump added. "You must follow your heart or in many cases, your religion or your faith. Do what's right for your family and do what's right for yourself."

Trump reiterated his support for exceptions for abortion across the country, but did not commit to enshrining those into law in his statement. 

Donald Trump Holds Presidential Campaign Rally In Green Bay, Wisconsin
Former President Donald Trump speaks to guests at a rally on April 02, 2024 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Getty Images

"Like Ronald Reagan, I am strongly in favor of exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. You must follow your heart on this issue," he said. 

But Trump continued to spread misinformation on the issue, blaming Democrats for being the "radical ones on this issue," alleging they support "abortion up to and even beyond the ninth month." He has repeatedly insisted that Democrats support "execution after birth," which he repeated on Monday. 

And as the GOP seeks to navigate after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on IVF, Trump said he "strongly" supports "availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby."

Last week, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a prominent group that opposes abortion, released a statement praising Trump's "legacy of pro-life leadership," while encouraging him to endorse a 15-week minimum ban on abortion nationwide. 

But the group has expressed disappointment with the former president's stance on abortion, saying in a statement last year that his "states-only" position is "unacceptable." At the time, SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the group would oppose any presidential candidate "who refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard." Dannenfelser said in a statement Monday that the group is "deeply disappointed in President Trump's position."

Trump has repeatedly criticized politicians in his party for their stance on the divisive issue, calling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' six-week state abortion ban, "a terrible thing and a terrible mistake," in an interview with NBC News last year, and called out candidates who ran in the 2022 midterms and 2024 GOP primary for not talking about abortion "properly."

"In order to win in 2024, Republicans must learn how to properly talk about abortion," Trump said at a rally in Dubuque, Iowa in September. "In the midterms, it cost us dearly, really, and unnecessarily."

In March, Trump suggested he would support a national abortion ban around the 15-week mark in a New York radio interview with WABC. "The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15. And I'm thinking in terms of that. And it'll come out to something that's very reasonable."

The former president touts the overturning of Roe v. Wade as a significant accomplishment of his first administration and thanked the Supreme Court justices in his abortion statement Monday. In a statement on Monday, Mr. Biden railed against the former president, saying the video statement makes clear that Trump is "the person responsible for ending Roe v. Wade," and for "creating the cruelty and the chaos" the country has seen since. 

"Trump is scrambling. He's worried that since he's the one responsible for overturning Roe the voters will hold him accountable in 2024," the president said. "Well, I have news for Donald. They will."

The Supreme Court officially struck down the constitutional right to an abortion in June 2022, allowing states to immediately restrict access to abortion. 

Aaron Navarro contributed reporting. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.