Donald Trump says states should decide abortion policy, avoids talk of a national ban

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WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump said individual states should choose their own abortion restrictions, avoiding talk of any kind of federal government ban and drawing criticism from Democrats and anti-abortion Republicans alike on a pivotal election issue.

"At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people," Trump said in a video posted Monday on his Truth Social platform.

President Joe Biden and his supporters – who have made abortion a top issue in the 2024 race for the White House – said Trump's distinction between federal and state regulations is meaningless because he has already backed a string of state abortion bans.

Democrats also said Trump has long been a threat to abortion rights by appointing Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that had provided a constitutional right to abortion across the country.

"Trump once said women must be punished for seeking reproductive health care − and he's gotten his wish," Biden said in a statement. He also accused Trump of trying to avoid addressing his earlier support for abortion bans.

"Let there be no illusion," Biden said. "If Donald Trump is elected and the MAGA Republicans in Congress put a national abortion ban on the Resolute Desk, Trump will sign it into law."

Democrats push for abortion rights on the campaign trail

Democrats have campaigned on abortion access – and used the issue to fuel voter turnout – since the end of Roe v. Wade. They've notched wins with referendums and ballot measures on abortion in several states, and they hope to do the same this fall.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

After Trump's announcement, Democrats pointed out that the former president has given at least tacit support to Republican-backed restrictions in individual states, including a six-week abortion ban in his home state, Florida.

"Donald Trump is endorsing every single abortion ban in the states, including abortion bans with no exceptions," said Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa on X, formerly Twitter. "And he’s bragging about his role in creating this hellscape."

Florida is also holding an abortion rights referendum in the fall. Biden aides said that measure will drive voters to the polls and make them competitive in a must-win state for Trump.

Abortion opponents disappointed in Trump

Trump didn't face criticism only from Democrats on Monday. Some groups that oppose abortion took aim at Trump's opting out of the federal debate.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said that "we are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position." She said letting the states decide "cedes the national debate to the Democrats."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a critic in 2016 but now one of Trump's staunchest allies, said in a statement that he disagreed with Trump's position that abortion is "a states' rights issue."

"The pro-life movement has always been about the wellbeing of the unborn child − not geography," Graham said.

Over his political career, Trump has always had an equivocal position in the debate surrounding abortion access.

In the 1990s, Trump publicly said he supported abortion rights. But the former president avidly sought the support of religious conservatives and activists who opposed abortion rights during his 2016 presidential campaign.

In his 2024 White House bid, Trump has proclaimed that "I killed Roe v. Wade," but he has also warned Republicans to be "careful" about how they deal with the question because it has hurt them in elections − including his own reelection bid in 2020 and congressional races in 2022.

Trump blamed abortion for the Republicans' disappointing showing in 2022 when they won the House by a smaller-than-expected margin and failed to win back control of the Senate. Trump said the GOP handled the issue "poorly," especially candidates who did not support exceptions.

The Republican candidate has criticized Florida's six-week ban but said nothing about it in his video on Monday.

Many Democrats were unimpressed with Trump's remarks Monday.  “Let’s wait a few weeks and see what his new position will be," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Trump and his aides have expressed concern about how the abortion issue will affect the 2024 race.

Democrats believe that threats to abortion rights will drive more of their voters to the polls, particularly in swing states like Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Republicans are aware that abortion opponents are a major part of their coalition, and some of these voters could stay at home if they question the candidates' commitment to the cause.

In his video, Trump said: "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."

For his part, Biden said Trump is "scrambling" because he fears voters will hold him accountable for overturning Roe v. Wade. "Well, I have news for Donald," Biden said. "They will."

Trump and abortion in 2024

In recent weeks, Trump aides suggested he might back a 15- or 16-week national abortion ban − echoing some new state laws − but Trump did not raise the issue in his video Monday.

In that message, Trump stressed his support for exceptions in cases of rape, incest and severe medical emergencies. The former president also praised Alabama lawmakers for new legislation protecting in-vitro fertilization in the wake of a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court.

The court found that embryos created during in-vitro fertilization are "extrauterine children" and legally protected like any other child, though Alabama lawmakers quickly passed legislation to protect the procedure.

"Now it's up to the states to do the right thing," Trump said.

Said Biden: "It was never about public policy or what was right or what Trump believed. It was always about politics."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump opposes national abortion ban, says states should decide