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GOP candidates send mixed messages on abortion

Abortion platforms could make or break candidates’ campaigns

A young woman at the March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2023 Chip Somodevilla/Staff/Getty Images News via Getty Images

GOP candidates send mixed messages on abortion

Students for Life of America is heading into next week’s March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., with a message for Republicans: We vote pro-life first.

“We have to hold Republicans accountable. We have to tell them we want more,” Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins said. “Abortion is still happening. … Mothers still feel like they have to choose to pay someone to end the life of their child.”

In the first presidential election year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, more pro-life students are taking political action to support protections for unborn babies, Hawkins said.

As Iowa voters prepare for the Republican caucuses next week, all of the major Republican presidential candidates say they are pro-life. But their inability to agree on how to defend life sends a mixed message to voters and could give Democrats an opportunity to win more votes on the abortion issue.

An AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago poll taken in June 2023 showed that just over half of Americans support legal abortion within the first 15 weeks—down from 73 percent who support abortion in the first 6 weeks. Only 27 percent approved of abortion at 24 weeks. The Democratic Party is staking its 2024 campaign on codifying abortion as a constitutional right. Danielle Butterfield from Priorities USA, one of the Democratic Party’s largest political action committees, told Reuters that President Joe Biden plans to “communicate heavily” on abortion.

“It’s pretty evident, both with research and the elections we held in 2023, that abortion is a winning issue for us,” she said. In 2022 alone, six abortion-related ballot measures resulted in pro-abortion victories. In November 2023, Ohio voters approved a state constitutional right to abortion.

In the race for the Republican nomination for president, former President Donald Trump holds a wide lead. A Reuters/Ipsos poll in December found he was the top choice of 61 percent of likely Republican voters. In 2000, Trump defended pro-abortion views in his book The America We Deserve. He later claimed in 2016 to be “pro-life with exceptions,” and he appointed three pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. In early 2023, he said that he thought abortion regulations should be left up to the states. The statement drew criticism from pro-life groups such as Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which supports a federal law protecting babies from abortion. The group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, later met with Trump and said he was open to federal abortion regulations as long as they include exceptions for the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson pledged to support a federal law protecting babies from abortion after 15 weeks of gestation. DeSantis and Haley are unclear on whether they would allow exceptions.

While Vivek Ramaswamy would not support nationwide protections for babies, he would encourage states to adopt a law limiting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. In an interview with NBC News, Ramaswamy explained that if life ends when brain waves stop, then life must begin when brain waves start, at five to six weeks after conception. He emphasized the importance of passing laws that enable women to hold men financially accountable to their responsibilities as fathers. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would prioritize what the people choose but ultimately would not support six-week federal protections for babies.

Research from the Public Religion Research Institute showed in 2019 that nearly 59 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 believe abortion should be legal in almost all cases. That’s why Vice President Kamala Harris launched her “Fight For Our Freedoms College Tour” last fall, traveling to college campuses in key battleground states such as North Carolina and Georgia, championing support from young voters for the Biden campaign’s promises to increase access to abortion. Harris will be in Wisconsin on the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade to kick off a similar nationwide “Fight For Reproductive Freedoms” tour.

Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins also visited college campuses with Students for Life Action to rally young voters. She said, from her perspective, more women among America’s most unchurched generation verbally acknowledge that unborn babies are human beings but still approve of killing them. Hawkins is still excited by all the motivated, young pro-lifers of many religious, ethnic, and political backgrounds uniting to encourage their presidential candidates to stand for life.

“We’re leading a human rights movement, not an arm of the Republican Party,” she said. “We’re not going to be satisfied until this horrific thing is a thing of the past and our culture has changed to embrace mothers and families.”

Lillian Hamman

Lillian is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Berry College. She is a producer for WORLD Radio.

I so appreciate the fly-over picture, and the reminder of God’s faithful sovereignty. —Celina

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