(LifeSiteNews) — Florida governor and 2024 Republican presidential contender Ron DeSantis excoriated his chief rival former President Donald Trump Monday for his intentions to broker an abortion compromise that will let Republicans “go on to other things” if elected, which DeSantis took as a signal to pro-lifers that Trump is “preparing to sell you out.”
Over the weekend, Trump appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, during which said that if he returns to the White House he will mediate a negotiation that will “agree to a number of weeks or months or however you want to define it, 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.”
During the exchange, Trump also repeatedly refused to say if he believes the preborn have constitutional rights, would not commit to signing a 15-week abortion ban (which would only stop an estimated seven percent of abortions), expressed indifference as to whether abortion is resolved at the state or federal level, reiterated his insistence that pro-life laws need exceptions that allow babies conceived in rape and incest to be killed, and declared that the heartbeat-based, six-week abortion ban DeSantis signed in April was a “terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”
The comments have been widely condemned by pro-life observers and several pro-life leaders, who criticized both the ramifications and plausibility of such a compromise, accused Trump of undermining state-level efforts to achieve more comprehensive protections for unborn children, and speculated that he no longer feels the need to attempt to satisfy pro-lifers after establishing a generally pro-life record as president.
The DeSantis campaign pounced on Trump’s comments as well, arguing that during his presidency, Trump “repeatedly compromised with Democrats – and sold out conservative voters – to win praise from corporate media and the Left.”
DeSantis expanded on those remarks Monday in an interview with Radio Iowa.
“Donald Trump may think it’s terrible. I think protecting babies with heartbeats is noble and just and I’m proud to have signed the heartbeat bill in Florida and I know Iowa has similar legislation,” he said. “I don’t know how you can even make the claim that you’re somehow pro-life if you’re criticizing states for enacting protections for babies that have heartbeats.”
“I’ve given him credit for his accomplishments, whether it’s the court appointments, whether it’s the Abraham Accords… the deregulation and I think he does deserve credit for that,” the governor continued, “but anytime he did a deal with Democrats whether it was on budget, whether it was on the criminal justice ‘First Step Act,’ they ended up taking him to the cleaners. I think if he’s going into this saying he’s going to make the Democrats happy with respect to [the] right to life, I think all pro-lifers should know that he’s preparing to sell you out.”
DeSantis also dismissed polling indicating opposition to the heartbeat law within Florida, arguing that “as a leader, it doesn’t register to me, to be quite frank. I mean I think there are issues that come from your beliefs and I think that you advance those because you think they’re right.”
As for how to navigate the politics of the issue, he said simply that “we’ll make the positive case for what we did as something that is appropriate and based on science and based on what is just.”
Trump, whose noncommittal abortion rhetoric has been a recurring theme of his latest campaign, has attempted to seize on such public opinion, from blaming “no exceptions” pro-lifers for the GOP’s underperformance in the midterms and accusing them of “just plain disappear[ing]” after Roe v. Wade was overturned, to claiming in May that “many people within the pro-life movement feel that [the heartbeat law] was too harsh.”
DeSantis held a 100 percent pro-life voting record during his six years in the U.S. House of Representatives and established a pro-life record as governor, including signing a 15-week abortion ban (and later the aforementioned heartbeat law) and parental consent for underage abortions, as well as enforcing state law against taxpayer funding of abortion, putting pharmacies on notice that they would be prosecuted for distributing abortion pills, and firing state attorney Andrew Warren for publicly declaring he would not enforce Florida’s pro-life laws.
As a presidential candidate, DeSantis is pledging to “always come down on the side of life,” and “running on doing things I know I can accomplish; we’re going to end the abortion tourism that is in the military, it’s an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars, no funding for abortion, we’re gonna ensure that the Supreme Court remains so that Dobbs is not overturned, and I’m gonna be a leader with the bully pulpit to help local communities and states advance the cause of life.”
At the same time, DeSantis has recognized both a state and federal role but expressed doubt at the likelihood of a federal ban making it through Congress (which would require 60 Senate votes), and been criticized for not specifying what pro-life laws he would sign.
Trump maintains a commanding lead for the nomination, even as grave questions persist as to whether he can defeat President Joe Biden in a rematch. Primary voting begins next January with the Iowa caucuses, where DeSantis supporters hope the governor’s ground operation will deliver a victory that reverses the trajectory of the nomination battle. It remains to be seen how Trump’s latest abortion comments will impact the race.