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Donald TrumpChip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty

UPDATE, April 8, 2024, 1:55PM CST: This report has been updated to include additional reactions from pro-life leaders.

(LifeSiteNews) — Former president and presumptive Republican White House nominee Donald Trump has declared that abortion policy should be left to the states.

In a video address published Monday morning, Trump seemed to close the door on new federal pro-life protections if voters return him to the White House next year. He released the statement on his personal social network, opening with a reiteration that he “strongly support[s] the availability” of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) which he claimed was also supported by the “overwhelming majority of Americans including the vast majority of Republicans, conservatives, Christians and pro-life Americans,” another rhetorical move he has repeatedly made in recent months to appeal to the political center. He claimed supporting IVF is integral to “always be[ing] on the side of life,” despite the vast numbers of “excess” embryonic humans the process creates only to be destroyed.

The former president reiterated that he is “strongly in favor of exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother” (falsely claiming that position puts him in the company of Ronald Reagan), and that while pro-life voters “must follow your heart,” they “must also win elections” to reverse America’s broader decline.

Abortion is never necessary to save the life of a mother, and the unborn child, never responsible for the circumstances in which he or she was conceived, does not deserve the death penalty.

Trump claimed personal credit for his three Supreme Court appointees contributing to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, which he claimed was “something that all legal scholars, both sides, wanted.” He reiterated that “Democrats are the radical ones” as they refuse to accept any limits on the practice of abortion.

“My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it, from a legal standpoint, 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,” Trump said. “Many states will be different. Many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others. And that’s what they will be. At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people. You must follow your heart or, in many cases, your religion or your faith.”

“At the end of the day, it’s all about will of the people,” he added, thanking the Republican-appointed justices for the Dobbs ruling that he claimed “allow[ed] this long term, hard fought battle to finally end.” In fact, the battle is far from over, from the abortion industry’s federal crimes the federal government across multiple administrations has thus far refused to investigate, to federal actions subsidizing abortions and facilitating easy distribution of abortion pills (thereby thwarting state laws), to a wave of pro-abortion state constitutional amendments that effectively weaponize federalism against the preborn, and once enacted can only be undone by federal action.

Since last September, Trump has repeatedly suggested that if elected again he wants to find a “certain number of weeks” that would make both sides “happy” to put the issue “behind us,” even going so far as to call heartbeat-based abortion bans enacted by various states a “terrible mistake,” emphasize his desire for whatever pro-life actions Republicans pursue to contain exceptions for the so-called “hard cases.”

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At times the former president has expressed openness to a 15-week abortion ban while at the same time suggesting such decisions should be relegated to the state level, but has not yet officially endorsed a specific course of action. Last week he deflected a question about heartbeat laws by teasing a new statement in a matter of days, and on Sunday evening he said on Truth Social his statement on “abortion and abortion rights” would be coming the following morning.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America president Marjorie Dannenfelser responded that her group was “deeply disappointed” with Trump’s position, which “cedes the national debate to the Democrats who are working relentlessly to enact legislation mandating abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy.” However, she added that SBA will still “work tirelessly to defeat President Biden and extreme congressional Democrats.”

Students for Life Action president Kristan Hawkins was more generous, calling Trump’s statement a “step in the right direction” and that Republicans including Trump simply need to be better “educate[d] on IVF and abortion’s federal aspects. Hawkins also celebrated that Trump “ isn’t going to allow a divisive late-term limit that some GOP insiders were been pushing” to distract from President Joe Biden’s “abortion extremism.” She said that ultimately the “Pro-Life Generation can work with an administration preparing to welcome the next generation.”

National Right to Life Committee president Carol Tobias reacted by praising Trump’s “work in ensuring that the wrongly decided Roe v. Wade was abandoned to the garbage heap of history” and pro-life record from his first term and “look[ing] forward to defeating the pro-abortion Biden-Harris ticket and working with President Trump to build an America that truly respects life at every stage,” but not commenting on his latest comments.

By contrast, Live Action founder Lila Rose strongly denounced the statement, declaring Trump “is not a pro-life candidate” and calling on him to reject “this swamp-consultant-driven position” in favor of returning to that of the longstanding Republican Party Platform, which “support[s] a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”

Supporters have defended the top Republican’s abortion about-face by citing his generally pro-life record in office and nomination of three of the justices who went on to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as by citing persistent fears among Republicans that abortion has been to blame for their election woes over the past several years (a narrative that oversimplifies polling data and election results and discounts a host of unrelated factors). 

Some pro-life voices objected, but the GOP and conservative movement were largely content to relegate the debate over such issues to the background. Trump maintained his overwhelming lead all throughout the 2024 primary and easily bested his two closest competitors, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Polls currently have Trump leading Democrat incumbent Biden, although voters also say that convictions in Trump’s various ongoing legal battles would make them less likely to support him. However, serious concern among Democrats over Biden’s age and mental health, and deep dissatisfaction with his job performance, give the current president comparable electoral challenges. 

Third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. could be a wild card, as he has qualities that appeal to each major candidate’s base. At the moment, the aforementioned polls show Trump’s lead persisting even with Kennedy factored in, but given how close many are predicting the election to be, concern persists that even small defections could impact the outcome. Kennedy recently confirmed that, like Biden, he would also sign legislation codifying a nationwide “right” to abortion.

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