Trump on abortion: ‘It’s up to the states to do the right thing’ — By: Catholic News Agency

Former President Donald Trump arrives for a rally on April 2, 2024, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. / Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 8, 2024 / 12:50 pm (CNA).

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive presidential Republican nominee for 2024, announced his abortion policy in a Monday Truth Social video in which he said that “the states will determine” the future of abortion in the U.S.  

In the video, Trump touted his role in appointing three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade in the June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision but did not endorse a national abortion policy as many pro-lifers hoped he would.

Instead, Trump said that “at the end of the day” abortion law in the U.S. is “all about the will of the people” and that “now it’s up to the states to do the right thing.”

What Trump said

In what was a highly anticipated policy announcement, Trump backed away from any national abortion limits, saying: “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.” 

“Many states will be different,” he said. “Many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative [policies] than others, and that’s what they will be. At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.”

The former president noted that he supports exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother but urged people to vote according to their “heart, or in many cases, your religion or your faith.”

“Do what’s right for your family and do what’s right for yourself. Do what’s right for your children. Do what’s right for our country, and vote,” he said.

He called for unity on the life issues, saying that Democrats “are the radical ones on this position because they support abortion up to and even beyond the ninth month.”

“The concept of having an abortion in the later months and even execution after birth,” he said, “is unacceptable, and almost everyone agrees with that.”

Trump also voiced support for in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fertility treatment in which doctors fuse egg and sperm to create human embryos.

“I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby,” he said. “We want to make it easier for mothers and families to have babies, not harder. That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every state in America.”

He praised the Alabama Legislature for passing a new measure to give the IVF industry in the state blanket immunity from certain negligence and malpractice lawsuits, a move that Catholic bioethicist Carter Snead called “unjust” and a “shocking error in judgment.”

The Catholic Church is firmly opposed to IVF because it separates the marriage act from procreation and destroys embryonic human life.

Finally, Trump cautioned voters to “remember you must also win elections to restore our culture, and in fact to save our country,” which he said is “very sadly a nation in decline.”

“Our nation needs help. It needs unity. It needs us all to work closely together, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, everyone. We have to work together,” he said.

Pro-lifers react

Many in the pro-life movement had hoped Trump would endorse a federal abortion limit such as the one proposed by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. First introduced by Graham in 2022, this federal bill would limit abortion to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. It has not, however, received enough support from the Republican Party to come close to passage. 

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, head of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Activities Committee, responded to Trump’s announcement by telling CNA that “legislators have a responsibility to protect vulnerable preborn life not only at the state level but also at the federal level.”

“With the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case that returned the issue of abortion to the people and their elected officials,” Burbidge said that “the federal effort must include undoing the current administration’s aggressive abortion-promoting regulations, preventing taxpayers from subsidizing abortion, and pursuing nationwide standards.” 

Regarding IVF, Burbidge said that “life-affirming and moral alternatives to infertility are necessary, but we oppose methods such as IVF, which, among other problems, results in the death or abandonment of more children than are created through it.”

Pro-life leaders had measured reactions to Trump’s announcement, largely expressing support for the former president while urging him to take a stronger pro-life stance.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said her group is “deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position.”

“Saying the issue is ‘back to the states’ cedes the national debate to the Democrats who are working relentlessly to enact legislation mandating abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. If successful, they will wipe out states’ rights,” she said, adding that “unborn children and their mothers deserve national protections and national advocacy from the brutality of the abortion industry.”

CatholicVote president Brian Burch, whose group has officially endorsed Trump for president, said that Trump’s announcement “reflects the electoral minefield created by Democrat abortion fanaticism.”

While noting his belief that “leaving abortion policy to the states is not sufficient,” Burch said that he is “confident that a Trump administration will be staffed with pro-life personnel committed to pro-life policies, including conscience rights, limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, and protections for pro-life states.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life Action, meanwhile, said that pro-lifers “clearly have some work to do to educate the Trump administration to come” on the abortion and IVF issues but still called Trump’s announcement a “step in the right direction.”

“To be clear, the pro-life movement is united that abortion is a federal issue, and we won’t stop working until every child, in every state, is protected in life by law and service. Your state lines should never mean the beginning or end of your human rights,” she noted.

“Unlike President Biden, President Trump begins his remarks on abortion celebrating ‘the ultimate joy in life’ — children and family. That kind of love and support for the bedrock of society, the family, will be a welcome change in the White House,” Hawkins said.

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