Trump’s abortion statement angers conservatives and gives the Biden campaign a new target

NEW YORK — Donald Trump still says he is proud that his nominees to the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Still, he again avoided tough questions about abortion on Monday, including whether he would support a national abortion ban if he returned to the White House.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was trying to resolve an issue widely seen as a general election risk. Instead, his video statement exposed the difficult road ahead and inflamed leaders on both sides of the issue.

Religious conservatives said they were deeply disappointed. Progressives said he was lying. And there is every indication that abortion will determine the 2024 election no matter what Trump does or says — largely because Republicans in Congress and in statehouses across the country continue to fight for new restrictions.

Here are some insights that explore the complicated politics of Trump’s latest statement.

For Trump, the fights over abortion, like any other major issue, have always been about winning. And so it should come as no surprise that he avoided endorsing a ban on Monday.

Trump has long tried to refrain from supporting national restrictions that could spell political disaster for Republicans struggling to win back key groups — especially suburban women — who have turned their backs on the GOP in recent years .

Trump continues to like to take credit for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. He did this again in Monday’s video posted to his social media site. But even at the state level, the abortion bans enacted after Roe was overturned are deeply unpopular.

So Trump simply tried to push abortion back to the United States.

“The states will decide by vote or legislation, or perhaps both. And whatever they decide, it must be the law of the land,” Trump said of the right to abortion. “Now it is up to the states to do the right thing.”

Religious conservatives, of course, have been fighting abortion rights for decades, arguing that abortion must be stopped at all costs—even if they pay a price at the ballot box.

But Trump wants to win in 2024. And in his statement he made it clear that he is trying to make the best of a bad political situation for him and his party.

“We have to win,” he said. “We have to win.”

Democrats would have had more ammunition in November if Trump had publicly embraced a national abortion plan on Monday. But Biden’s party still has plenty to work with.

Even in Monday’s statement, Trump said he was “proudly responsible” for the Roe reversal.

Within hours, the Biden campaign announced plans to release a new ad attacking Trump’s position. Prominent pro-choice groups also lashed out, with many arguing that Trump cannot be trusted after his leading role in rolling back abortion rights.

Biden issued a seven-paragraph statement calling Trump specifically “responsible for creating the brutality and chaos that has enveloped America” ​​since Roe was overturned.

“Trump is in turmoil,” the Democrat said. “He fears that since he is the one responsible for overturning Roe, voters will hold him accountable in 2024. Well, I have news for Donald. They will.”

National Democrats plan to blame Trump not only for abortion bans in conservative-run states but also for restrictions on fertility treatments in Alabama after the state Supreme Court ruled that embryos should be considered children and given legal protection.

Biden’s campaign announced Sunday that it would hold campaign events with two women, one from Texas and the other from Louisiana, who say they were denied medical care because of restrictive abortion laws introduced after Roe was overturned.

Meanwhile, Republicans simply have no effective counterargument.

In his video, Trump reiterated the GOP’s long-standing argument that it is Democrats, not Republicans, who are extreme on abortion because they support abortion rights without restrictions. Such arguments, while debatable, have proven ineffective over the past two years. Conservatives have suffered painful defeats in elections dominated by the abortion rights debate, from Kentucky to Ohio to Michigan.

The reaction from the Republican Party’s religious conservatives was also not positive.

“We are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has declined to endorse his former running mate this year, put it this way: “President Trump’s retreat on the right to life issue is a slap in the face to the millions of pro-life Americans .”

On social media, some conservatives echoed Trump’s reference to the term “abortion rights,” arguing that such rights do not exist. Even Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., a vocal Trump ally, said on X that he “respectfully” disagrees with Trump’s new position.

Trump is making the calculation that his evangelical base, one of the most loyal elements in his coalition, will support him when it matters most. And recent history suggests he’s probably right.

Dannenfelser and others have been urging Trump for months to embrace a national abortion ban. Trump obviously didn’t do that. And yet Trump won an easy victory in the Republican Party primaries.

He even won the Iowa caucuses, which have historically been governed by religious conservatives, by 30 points.

If his misgivings about abortion didn’t hurt him with the Republican base in the primaries, it’s hard to see them turning against him this fall.

Trump spoke more substantively on Monday than we are used to. But he could hardly let the matter rest.

In the coming days, Trump will almost certainly be pressured to respond to religious conservatives who condemned his position. Perhaps more importantly, he is also asked to clarify important questions that he avoided altogether.

Trump has not explicitly stated whether or not he would sign a national abortion ban if it were to come across his desk if re-elected.

While it is unlikely that such a proposal would pass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives have approved a national abortion ban as part of a budget proposal unveiled this spring by the Republican Study Committee.

At the same time, Trump did not explain his position on a ballot measure in Florida that would preserve abortion rights in the state constitution if approved in November. Trump is, of course, a Florida resident who will have the opportunity to vote for or against the proposal.

A new Florida law signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis will soon go into effect banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before many women realize they are pregnant. Trump promised last week that he would make the statement he made Monday after being asked about the state law.

Also left unanswered: whether Trump supports access to the FDA-approved abortion drug mifepristone, which is widely available through the mail.

Whether the Republican Party likes it or not, abortion will be a defining issue for many voters as they decide the presidency this fall.

The reversal of Roe is still fresh for many voters, who have only just begun to grapple with Republican-backed abortion restrictions in their states. At the same time, voters in several states are expected to decide in November whether to enshrine abortion rights into state law.

For now, it’s not clear exactly how many states will vote on abortion ballot measures. In some cases it is questionable whether the proponents of amendments can obtain sufficient valid signatures. In other cases it is up to the legislator. And in some states there is legal wrangling.

So far, abortion rights are certainly on the ballot in Florida, Maryland and New York. And efforts are also underway to do the same in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota.