(LifeSiteNews) — Former President Donald Trump distanced himself from banning abortion once a heartbeat can be detected in a new interview while again refusing to clarify his own position on what to do at the federal level in America’s post-Roe landscape.
When asked by The Messenger about the six-week abortion ban signed in April by his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump said, “he has to do what he has to do. If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing. But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh.” When asked if he would sign a similar law, Trump would only say that he was “looking at all alternatives. I’m looking at many alternatives.”
The former president claimed credit for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last summer overturning Roe v. Wade for “get[ting] us to the table,” which he claimed “nobody else could have done…but me.” During his term, Trump had the opportunity to fill three vacancies on the nation’s highest court, which he and the Republican-controlled Senate did using a list of judges given to him by the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, ultimately picking nominees whose positions on Roe he previously said he did not ask about.
Overturning Roe “gave us a tremendous power of negotiation, which we didn’t have, the pro-life movement, a tremendous power of negotiation,” Trump said. “Now the pro-life movement has the power to negotiate a deal that’s acceptable for them.” It is unclear what precisely about abortion policy he believes should be negotiated or what limits he expects Democrats to agree to.
As for abortion more generally, Trump said, “first of all, I’m a believer in the exceptions, right? And just as Ronald Reagan was a believer in the exceptions, but I’m a believer in the exceptions … the life of the mother, raping and incest. … The other thing I really believe is that the radicals are people that would have a baby destroyed, killed at the end of the ninth month or even after birth.”
Over the years, various moderate Republicans have misstated Reagan’s position to justify support for abortion exceptions. But while Reagan expressed support for a rape exception in 1975, two years after Roe, by the time he became president, he had come to oppose it, advocating a constitutional amendment to ban abortion nationwide for any reason except to save a mother’s life.
The interview continues weeks of confusion on how strongly Trump, who was “pro-choice” for most of his life as a liberal celebrity but had a generally pro-life record in office, would approach abortion in a hypothetical second term.
The questions began in April, when his campaign told the Washington Post that abortion now “should be decided at the State level,” prompting strong denunciations from pro-life leaders Lila Rose of Live Action, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America, and Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, who vowed to “oppose any presidential candidate who refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard.”
Eighteen days later, Dannenfelser praised Trump for a “terrific” meeting with herself, pro-Trump Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, during which Trump reportedly reiterated his support for exceptions and opposition to Democrat extremism on the issue, without committing to the “minimum” 15-week standard.
On May 3, Trump declined to clearly answer whether he would sign a 15-week ban, saying instead, “we’re going to look at it. We’re looking at a lot of different options […] I think we’ll get it done on some level. It could be on different levels, but we’re going to get it done. I know the issue very well, I think I know the issue better than most and we will get that taken care of.”
Last week, appearing on a nationally-televised CNN town hall, Trump repeatedly refused to give a clear answer, saying instead that he was “looking at a solution that’s going to work – very complex issue for the country. You have people on both sides […] I want to do what’s right. And we’re looking.”