COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal right to abortion, the issue has at times dominated the discussion among the Republicans seeking their party’s 2024 presidential nomination and is sure to be on display during the first GOP campaign debate Wednesday in Milwaukee.
Some of the division among the candidates has come over whether there should be a national ban on the practice — and after how many weeks — now that the justices have returned specific debate over abortion legality to the states.
A look at how the issue of abortion is playing out among Republican and Democratic candidates:
The former president, the current GOP front-runner, has often sidestepped the issue of abortion, even as Republicans across the country have celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision.
In April, a major anti-abortion group assailed Trump on the issue, saying his contention that abortion restrictions should be left up to individual states, not the federal government, is a “morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate.”
The Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group has said it would not support any White House candidate who did not at a minimum support a 15-week federal abortion ban.
Trump, who has referred to himself as “the most pro-life president in American history, has pointed to his successful nomination of three conservatives justices, a move that tilted the court to the conservative majority that overturned Roe v. Wade. Earlier this year, he characterized as “too harsh” a measure signed into law by fellow contender Gov. Ron DeSantis that would ban abortions in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy.
While DeSantis has been governor, Florida passed an abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy. But DeSantis, who says he is “pro-life,” has suggested that individual states should decide the issue, adding in a recent interview that he is “running on doing things that I know I can accomplish.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, criticized DeSantis for not supporting a national ban on the procedure, calling DeSantis’ position “unacceptable” as he runs for president.
The former vice president supports a federal ban on abortion at six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant.
And he has advocated pulling from the market one of two widely used abortion pills — a medication with a better safety record than Viagra and penicillin. Sensing that such a position may be viewed as too extreme in a general election, no other major presidential candidate has joined his calls.
In a recent Associated Press interview, Pence went even further, saying abortion should be banned, even when a pregnancy is deemed nonviable. Such a standard would force women to carry pregnancies to term even when doctors have determined there is no chance a baby will survive outside the womb.
Earlier this month while touring the Iowa State Fair, Pence said he was expecting to use the debate as an opportunity to call out Trump and DeSantis for not insisting on a national abortion ban.
The South Carolina senator has long voiced his opposition to abortion, pledging that as president “I would sign the most conservative pro-life legislation you can bring to my desk.”
He has signaled support for a federal ban on the practice for as early as 12 weeks and also support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would ban abortions nationally after 15 weeks.
In 2021, Scott also co-sponsored legislation that would have established a constitutional right to life from “the moment of fertilization.”
Haley, the sole woman in the GOP field, pledged in May that she would sign a federal abortion ban if elected president.
But Haley has not specified a time frame for after how many weeks she feels abortion should be outlawed, noting that passing such a measure would be highly unlikely without more Republicans in Congress, and advocating for “consensus” around the issue. She’s said she would “absolutely” sign a 15-week federal ban.
The former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said “no one has been honest” about how difficult a ban could be to achieve, in a closely divided federal government.
Haley campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said in June that she would “sign pro-life legislation that includes exceptions for rape, incest, and for the life of the mother,” suggesting she may be opposed to an exception for non-viable pregnancies — but declining to clarify.
As governor, Haley signed an abortion ban after about 20 weeks. That law is still in effect while a six-week ban, passed by state lawmakers, is held up in the courts.
The wealthy biotech entrepreneur and author of “Woke, Inc.” has said he would not support a federal ban on abortion because ”the federal government should stay out of it.” He has voiced support for states that have passed six-week bans.
Like some other hopefuls, he has pushed for more policies that encourage adoption and better child care.
The former two-term New Jersey governor has argued that the issue of abortion should be carried out in the states, not at the federal level.
In a CNN town hall, Christie said that “the federal government should not be involved unless and until there’s a consensus around the country from the 50 states making their own decisions about what it should be.”
Seeking local office in the 1990s, Christie identified himself as “pro-choice,” saying he changed his position after hearing his daughter’s heartbeat at 13 weeks.
As governor, he vetoed millions in state funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. Before the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe, Christie joined Dannenfelser in meetings other GOP governors to discuss the issue and how it might play out at the state level.
The former two-term Arkansas governor has said the issue of abortion should stay in the states without a Republican supermajority in Congress.
As governor in 2021, Hutchinson signed a near-total ban on abortions that did not include rape and incest exceptions.
In April, the two-term North Dakota governor signed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country. The measure would allow abortions up to six weeks’ gestation in cases of rape or incest, or medical emergencies. After that marker, no exceptions aside from some medical emergencies, such as ectopic pregnancies, are allowed at any stage of pregnancy.
Burgum has mostly said the issue of abortion should be left to the states and has indicated he would not support a federal ban.
The conservative talk radio host opposes abortion but has said he would not support a federal ban.
The businessman describes himself as “pro-life.” When he ran for Michigan governor in 2022, Johnson told reporters “two wrongs don’t make a right” when asked if he would rule out banning abortion in cases of sexual assault.
The Miami mayor has said that he would support a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions, including rape, incest and the mother’s health.
The former Texas congressman has said he would sign a 15-week federal abortion ban, although he has said that he doesn’t see it as realistic that Congress would pass such a measure.
While in the House, Hurd twice voted in favor of a 20-week ban.
The president supports abortion access and has said he would veto a national ban on the practice. As a senator, Biden supported abortion restrictions like the 1976 Hyde Amendment — which states that Medicaid won’t pay for abortions unless the woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest — but said during the 2020 campaign he had shifted course.
The aftermath of last year’s Supreme Court ruling has framed much of Biden’s presidency on abortion. He signed an executive order designed to strengthen and promote access to contraception.
Mounting a rallying cry to 2022 midterms voters to seat more Democratic lawmakers who could possibly codify abortion access nationally, Biden has also directed his administration to take steps to protect access to abortion care. This includes making mifepristone — one of two pills used in medication abortions — easier to obtain, and ensuring members of the military can access reproductive health care.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
The author and environmental lawyer has spoken in favor of “bodily autonomy” and describes himself as “pro-choice.”
A nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, he has also said “it’s a woman’s choice, and it’s solely up to the woman” in terms of how a pregnancy should be handled in its first trimester.
The self-help author’s campaign website describes her as “one hundred percent pro-choice.” Williamson has also noted that she believes the decision to have an abortion or not “lies solely with a pregnant woman, according to the dictates of her conscience and in communion with the God of her understanding.”