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Where the 2024 Republican presidential candidates stand on abortion

Where abortion access stands post-Dobbs
Where abortion access stands post-Dobbs decision 01:57

Washington — Abortion is shaping up to be a top issue in the 2024 presidential campaign, with Republicans and Democrats at odds over the limits to impose after the Supreme Court unwound the constitutional right to abortion last year.

While Democrats, led by President Biden, support abortion access, the GOP candidates vying for the presidential nomination back restrictions in some form. But the field is fractured over how far into a pregnancy abortion should be prohibited, and whether a federal ban is appropriate.

Here is where the Republicans running for president stand on the issue:

Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly claimed credit for the Supreme Court's decision overruling Roe v. Wade, as he appointed one-third of the justices currently on the high court. All three of his appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, voted to end the nationwide right to abortion.

But the former president has criticized a bill signed into law by rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, calling it "too harsh." He repeated his opposition to the six-week bill signed by DeSantis in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" in September, calling it "a terrible thing and a terrible mistake."

Trump said "people are starting to think of 15 weeks" as the gestational limit for a federal abortion ban, but declined to say whether he would sign such a proposal. Instead, he suggested that if elected to the White House again, he would seek consensus from both sides of the issue.

"We're going to agree to a number of weeks or months or however you want to define it," Trump said. "And both sides are going to come together and both sides — both sides, and this is a big statement — both sides will come together, and for the first time in 52 years, you'll have an issue that we can put behind us."

Asked whether those discussions would take place at the federal level, Trump said, "It could be state, or it could be federal. I don't frankly care."

The former president went on to criticize his fellow Republicans for how they talk about abortion, saying some "speak very inarticulately about this subject."

"I watch some of them without the exceptions, etc., etc.," he said, referring to some GOP lawmakers who oppose exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. "I said, 'Other than certain parts of the country, you're not going to win on this issue. But you will win on this issue when you come up with the right number of weeks."

While Trump was in the White House, his administration supported a bill introduced in the House that outlawed abortions after 20 weeks gestation. When asked in April whether he would sign a measure banning abortions after 15 weeks, Trump told New Hampshire's WMUR that he would "look at it."

"It could be on different levels, but we're going to get it done," he said. "I know the issue very well. I think I know the issue better than most and we will get that taken care of."

Trump faced sharp criticism from the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America after a campaign spokesman told the Washington Post that the former president believes the Supreme Court was right to let states set abortion policy.

"President 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 and is a morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate to hold," Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group's president, said in a statement. Dobbs is a reference to the court's June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization reversing Roe.

Ron DeSantis

DeSantis, the governor of Florida, signed into law a bill that prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy in April, with exceptions for when the life of the mother is at risk. The measure also allows abortions up to 15 weeks when the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or human trafficking. 

After Trump criticized the law, DeSantis defended the ban and said he was "proud" to sign it.

The Florida governor also signed a measure prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks in 2022. The state supreme court is currently considering a challenge to the 15-week ban, and the outcome of that case will impact whether the six-week law takes effect.

In a September interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell, DeSantis said he does not support criminalizing women who have abortions. 

"We have no criminal penalty," the governor said. "The penalties are for the physician." 

Florida's law banning abortion after six weeks states that "any person who willfully performs or actively participates in a termination of pregnancy" in violation of the law would face felony charges. DeSantis stressed that a woman who undergoes an abortion is not subject to the law's criminal penalties, since she is "not a medical practitioner." 

The governor said he is "absolutely not" in favor of criminalizing women and that it "will not happen in Florida." 

DeSantis speaks on abortion, inflation and Trump's legal issues 04:08

Tim Scott

Scott, a South Carolina senator, originally favored a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but in June, he wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register stating that if he were elected president, he would "sign the most pro-life legislation the House and Senate can put on my desk. We should begin with a 15-week national limit." 

He co-sponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which establishes a criminal offense for performing or attempting to perform an abortion after 20 weeks. The bill states that the woman who undergoes an abortion cannot be prosecuted.

Mike Pence

Of the GOP candidates seeking the White House, the former vice president is the most vocal about his opposition to abortion rights, declaring that "we must not rest and must not relent" until abortion is banned in every state. 

"Having been given this second chance for Life, we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land," he told Breitbart News days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

Pence told CNN in March that he "of course" supports a nationwide ban on abortion after six weeks gestation and said in an interview with the Associated Press this month that he believes abortions should be outlawed even when a pregnancy is nonviable. 

"I'm pro-life. I don't apologize for it," the former vice president and Indiana governor said. "I just have heard so many stories over the years of courageous women and families who were told that their unborn child would not go to term or would not survive. And then they had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy delivery."

Pence said last month during the Faith & Freedom Conference in June that every Republican seeking the presidential nomination should support a 15-week federal ban as a "minimum nationwide standard."

The former vice president also came out against the FDA-approved abortion pill mifepristone, which is at the center of a legal challenge brought by medical associations that oppose abortion rights.

Pence told CBS News in April that he would like to see mifepristone taken off the market "to protect the unborn."

Nikki Haley

During a campaign swing through New Hampshire in May, Haley said she would sign into law a federal abortion ban, but declined to specify after which point in a pregnancy abortion should be prohibited.

The former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations added that any legislation faces steep odds to pass the House and Senate, where 60 votes are needed for bills to advance.

"The idea that a Republican president could ban all abortions is not being honest with the American people, any more than a Democrat president could ban these pro-life laws in the states," she told "Face the Nation" in May. "So let's be honest with the American people and say, let's find national consensus."

Haley told "Fox News Sunday" earlier this month that "whatever 60 votes come to, whether that's 15 weeks, I absolutely would sign it."

While Haley was governor of South Carolina, she signed a 20-week abortion ban into law. At that time, in 2016, states could not enact regulations that imposed an undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion before fetal viability, at generally 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Asa Hutchinson

The former governor of Arkansas indicated in an April interview with Fox News that he would sign into law a bill prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks if it included "the appropriate exceptions."

"The answer is I've always signed pro-life bills," he said. "And a pro-life bill that comes to me that sets reasonable restrictions, but also has the appropriate exceptions, yes I would sign it."

But Hutchinson told ABC's "This Week" in May 2022 that he opposed a national abortion ban because it's "inconsistent" with what Republicans have been pushing for since the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe, which is for abortion policy to be returned to the states.

"As a matter of principle, that's where it should be," he said. "If you look at a constitutional or a national standard, that goes against that thrust of the states having prerogative. And secondly, I think there's some constitutional issues of a national standard as well as to what is the authority under the Constitution to enact that."

While he was the Arkansas governor, Hutchinson signed into law a measure banning all abortions, except those performed to save the life of the mother. It did not include exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

In a statement after signing the bill, Hutchinson noted the ban was at the time in conflict with the Supreme Court's precedent, but it "set the stage" for a future reversal of those decisions.

Chris Christie

Christie, the former New Jersey governor, calls himself "pro-life," but said the issue of abortion should be left to each state.

"What I stand for … is what conservatives have been arguing for 50 years, which is that Roe was wrong, there's no federal constitutional right to an abortion, and that the states should decide," he told CNN during a town hall in June. "I absolutely believe that each state should make their decision on this."

Asked whether he would sign a national abortion ban into law, Christie said the federal government should "not be involved unless — and until — there's consensus around the country."

Vivek Ramaswamy

Ramaswamy, a former biotech entrepreneur and the youngest among the Republicans vying for the White House, has said, "unborn life is life" and describes himself as "unapologetically pro-life."

He told CNN in May that he does not believe a federal abortion ban "makes any sense."

"This is not an issue for the federal government. This is an issue for the states. I think we need to be explicit about that," Ramaswamy said. "If murder laws are handled at the state level and abortion is a form of murder, the pro-life view, then it makes no sense for that to be the one federal law."

At the state level, Ramaswamy said he backs outlawing abortion after six weeks gestation.

"If life ends, when do we brainwaves end? That's how we determine when life ends on the back-end, I think we should apply a consistent principle on the front end, that's around the six-week mark that brainwaves do begin," he told Fox News in April. "I think that's the right way to think about the issue at the state level."

Ramaswamy said the question of a gestational limit is not "for the president, because I think the federal government should be out of this."

Doug Burgum

North Dakota's governor signed into law a near-total ban on abortion, which allows for the procedures to be performed in cases of rape or incest up to six weeks' gestation. The law contains an exception for abortions to "prevent the death or a serious health risk" of the mother.

But Burgum told CNN in June that he would not support a similar measure at the federal level and, if elected president, he would not sign a nationwide ban into law.

"I think the decision that was made returning the power to the states was the right one," he said. "We've got a lot of division on this issue in America, and what's right for North Dakota may not be right for another state, Minnesota, California, New York."

Francis Suarez

Suarez, the mayor of Miami, told the Associated Press in June that he supports a 15-week abortion ban with some exceptions at the federal level and said the country "is not there yet" on a six-week law like the one signed into law by his fellow Floridian DeSantis.

"We are in a situation where 70% of the country agrees with a limitation of 15 weeks where there is an exception for the life of the mother and an exception for rape and incest, and I think that is a position that will save a tremendous amount of babies," Suarez said in the Associated Press interview. "If there was that kind of federal law, that's one that I would support as president."

Will Hurd

While representing Texas' 23rd Congressional District, Hurd twice voted in favor of proposals that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, first in 2015 and again in 2017.

He told Fox News in July that if Congress sent a 15-week ban to his desk as president, he would sign it.

"I also think that the Dobbs decision was the right decision and states should be making their own decisions," he said.

Hurd suggested the GOP talk about maternal and neonatal health, and predicted that Democrats will use the abortion issue as campaign fodder against Republicans in the next election. 

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