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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 6, 2022, in Dallas, TexasPhoto by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

(LifeSiteNews) – In a departure from recent criticism of the former president, Marjorie Dannenfelser has announced that she and Donald Trump had a “terrific” meeting Monday. 

“His presidency was the most consequential in American history for the pro-life cause,” Dannenfelser, the head of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said. 

“President Trump knows the vast majority of Americans oppose brutal late-term abortions when the child can feel pain and suck their thumbs.” 

Also present at the meeting were Tony Perkins, the head of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, and South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham has already endorsed Trump for president in 2024 and is currently sponsoring a bill that would ban abortion at the federal level at 15 weeks. 

A softening of opposition to Trump? 

Dannenfelser’s tone stands in contrast to remarks she gave just last month when she said it was “morally indefensible” for Trump to claim that abortion should be a states-only issue. 

“We will oppose any presidential candidate who refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard to stop painful late-term abortions while allowing states to enact further protections,” she announced on April 20 in response to comments Trump made to the Washington Post. 

In her statement Monday, Dannenfelser praised Trump for opposing late-term abortion, but added that he “reiterated that any federal legislation protecting these children would need to include the exceptions for life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest.”  

“During the meeting, President Trump reiterated his opposition to the extreme Democratic position of abortion on demand, up until the moment of birth, paid for by taxpayers – and even in some cases after the child is born,” said Dannenfelser. “President Trump knows the vast majority of Americans oppose brutal late-term abortions when the child can feel pain and suck their thumbs.” 

More than 90% of abortions take place during the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy.

Abortion as a national issue in post-Roe America 

Dannenfelser’s meeting with Trump comes amid growing tension between the former president and the pro-life movement. After the 2022 midterms, Trump partially blamed candidates that took a hardline stance on abortion in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere for the GOP’s lackluster performance. 

“I think a lot of Republicans didn’t handle the abortion question properly,” he told Breitbart in December 2022. “I think if you don’t have the three exceptions, it’s almost impossible in most parts of the country to win.”  

“If somebody really doesn’t believe in the exceptions,” he continued, “then they have to follow their heart. But I don’t think they’re capable of being elected other than in certain areas.” 

Pro-life leaders like Lila Rose of Live Action condemned Trump’s remarks at the time. “[He] is way out of line here on life,” she said. “This kind of nonsense will be a losing political strategy for him.”  

Dannenfelser suggested that candidates could have done a far better job at painting their liberal opponents as abortion extremists. 

Abortion and the 2024 GOP presidential primary 

The uneasy relationship between Trump and the pro-life movement has not gone un-noticed by industry insiders.  

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney-McDaniel called on Republicans to more aggressively combat Democrat lies about abortion “head on” during a Fox News appearance last month.  

“Abortion was a big issue in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvania …. Democrats [were] putting $360 million … on TV in lies. So those lies become the truth if you don’t fight back. So, you need to say, ‘listen, I’m proud to be pro-life.’” 

Jon Schweppe, the policy director of the American Principles Project, has argued that while Trump was not entirely incorrect in his assessment of the 2022 races, he needs to have a more robust plan going forward. 

“I think [Trump] sees abortion as why we lost the midterms, and he’s not totally wrong,” Schweppe has remarked. “But the answer is not: ‘There’s no federal role. We’re not going to do anything anymore – I delivered you Dobbs.’ It’s got to be: ‘This is the next step.’” 

“The pro-life movement still has quite a bit of sway,” he added, “and it’s going to have a major sway in the presidential primary.” 

Conservative commentator Rich Lowry of National Review has predicted that abortion is likely going to be a thorny issue for Republicans going forward given that polling data suggests most Americans are, regrettably, in favor of some form of exceptions. 

Potential presidential candidates comment on abortion 

GOP lawmakers rumored to be mulling presidential runs of their own have also spoken out about abortion, sensing, perhaps, a weakness for Trump. 

“I do think it’s more likely that this issue is resolved at the state level,” former Vice President Mike Pence told reporters at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual meeting last month. “But I don’t agree with the former president, who says this is a ‘states-only’ issue.” 

On April 13, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a heartbeat bill that outlaws abortion around the sixth week of pregnancy. The measure includes a life of the mother exception and one allowing babies conceived in rape or incest to be aborted until the 15th week of pregnancy.

Though DeSantis has not yet announced his candidacy, his run is believed to be imminent. At present, most Republican primary polls consistently show DeSantis receiving around 20% of the vote to Trump’s 55%.  

Trump himself delivered remarks to the Iowa conference, which featured a strong Evangelical presence.  

“I will stand proudly in defense of innocent life, just as I did for four very powerful, strong years,” he said in a pre-recorded address. “Because every child born and unborn is a sacred gift from God.”  

But when pressed by a reporter in New Hampshire on April 27 as to whether he would back a 15-week federal ban, Trump declined to give a clear answer. “We’re going to look at it. We’re looking at a lot of different options. We got it back to the states.”