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UPDATE, 2:06PM CST: This report has been updated with additional comments from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America president Marjorie Dannenfelser.

UPDATE 2, 5:57PM CST: This report has been updated to acknowledge that in the full uncut interview, available here, President Trump raised the example of Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam’s defense of infanticide, which was omitted from the edit of the segment in NBC News’s original report.

(LifeSiteNews) — Former President Donald Trump stunned pro-life former supporters over the weekend with a Meet the Press interview in which he repeatedly touted plans for an abortion compromise he hopes will put the issue “behind us,” repeatedly refused to say if he believes the preborn have constitutional rights, condemned state heartbeat laws as “terrible,” expressed indifference as to whether the issue is resolved at the state or federal level, and reiterated his insistence that pro-life laws need exceptions for rape and incest.

During an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Kristen Welker asked the 2024 Republican frontrunner, “how is it acceptable in America that women’s lives are at risk, doctors are being forced to turn away patients in need, or risk breaking the law?” Without disputing the false claim that denying abortion risks women’s lives, Trump claimed credit for overturning Roe v. Wade, which he said gave pro-lifers “the right to negotiate for the first time.”

“We’re going to have people come together on this issue,” he said. “They’re going to determine the time, because nobody wants to see five, six, seven, eight, nine months, nobody wants to see abortions when you have a baby in the womb.” 

Welker repeatedly claimed that abortion up to and past nine months “is not part of anyone’s platform.” Trump repeated the point throughout the interview, to which Trump referenced New York’s so-called Reproductive Health Act of 2019 and comments that same year by former Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam. But overall, Trump focused on his vision of himself as “almost like a mediator in this case,” after which “we’ll be able to go on to other things, like the economy, our military.”

“I think they’re all going to like me, I think both sides are gonna like me,” he said. “What’s going to have to happen, listen, what’s going to happen is you’re going to come up with a number of weeks or months, you’re going to come up with a number that’s going to make people happy. Because 92 percent of the Democrats don’t want to see abortion after a certain period of time.”

“We’re going to 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,” Trump claimed.

Compromise legislation on abortion is not a new idea; pro-life legislative strategy has long been dominated by the “incremental” approach in which bills are proposed based on whatever cutoff points are believed to be most politically feasible in a given time or place. Nationally, however, Democrats have not been receptive to such proposals. In January, all but two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against legislation to require basic medical care to fully-delivered infants who survive attempted abortions. (When in leadership, Democrats have repeatedly blocked such legislation from even coming up for a vote.) Last year, all but one House Democrat voted for legislation to force effectively unlimited abortion nationwide. In 2020, only two Senate Democrats voted for legislation to ban abortion at 20 weeks. Democrat leaders often refuse to identify any abortion restrictions they would accept, most recently Vice President Kamala Harris.

RELATED: Dear Trump: Abortion isn’t a business deal where ‘both sides’ have valid points

Further, as noted Monday by LifeSiteNews’s Matt Lamb, a 15-week cutoff point embraced over the past year by some pro-life leaders would only stop an estimated seven percent of abortions, with a later number of weeks saving even fewer babies. That is why the incremental approach (which not all pro-lifers accept) is predicated on the understanding that any partial ban will be followed by continued efforts to pass earlier bans, eventually achieving full protection. Trump, by contrast, touted his compromise as an endpoint for the issue.

When asked if such a compromise would be at the state or federal level, Trump said, “it could be state or it could be federal, I don’t frankly care.” A federal abortion law would be the only scenario in which the president would have any role, however.

When pressed for further elaboration, Trump was evasive. On whether he would sign a ban on abortion at 15 weeks, he said, “I’m not gonna say I would or I wouldn’t,” then volunteered that he considered it a “terrible thing and a terrible mistake” for his chief 2024 Republican rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, to have signed a ban on abortion at six weeks. 

Welker also asked four times if Trump believed that preborn babies have constitutional rights. He did not answer, but took the opportunity to stress, “I have exceptions, by the way. I think people should have exceptions, I think if it’s rape or incest or the life of the mother, I think you have to have exceptions […] and a lot of people, when they don’t have exceptions, now, I will tell you that I think most people, most Republicans are willing, you go life of the mother, rape, incest, I think most of them are there.”

“There is a number, and there’s a number that’s going to be agreed to,” Trump said. “And Republicans should go out and say the following, because I think the Republicans speak very inarticulately about this subject, I watch some of them, without the exceptions et cetera, et cetera, I said, other than certain parts of the country, you can’t – 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. Because Democrats don’t want to be radical on the issue, most of them, some do, they don’t want to be radical on the issue.”

Trump’s comments set off a firestorm among the pro-life community. Live Action founder Lila Rose called them “pathetic and unacceptable,” declaring he “should not be the GOP nominee”:

And Then There Were None CEO Abby Johnson and Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins excoriated Trump as well:

Notably milder was the reaction from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, whose president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in April the Trump campaign’s declaration that abortion should be left to the states was “morally indefensible” and vowed to “oppose any presidential candidate who refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard,” but 18 days later praised Trump for a “terrific” meeting during which he reportedly reiterated his support for exceptions and opposition to Democrat extremism on the issue, without any indication he had committed to the “minimum” 15-week standard.

When asked for comment, the group simply reiterated its call for a 15-week minimum, endorsed clarity from “every candidate” on how to advance the pro-life cause, and praised DeSantis for signing the heartbeat law, but did not mention Trump by name or criticize his remarks. Dannenfelser later tweeted reiterations of SBA’s support for heartbeat laws and a call to “move from past and future tense,” again without criticizing Trump: 

Other conservative commentators suggested the interview signaled that Trump, who established a generally pro-life record in office by bringing in outside help to shape his executive actions and judicial selections (to assuage doubts about his “very pro-choice” past), now takes conservative support for granted and feels free to try to curry favor with other groups, potentially forecasting a very different type of presidency if he were to win a second term:

The DeSantis campaign pounced on Trump’s comments as well, calling them part of a pattern that it said the Florida governor would not share as president:

Trump maintains a commanding lead for the nomination, even as grave questions persist as to whether Trump 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.