Trump runs pro-life ads in Iowa following criticism over abortion comments — By: Catholic News Agency

Former President Donald J. Trump makes remarks at the 2023 CPAC on March 4, 2023. / Credit: Julia Nikhinson/Consolidated News Photos/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 17, 2023 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

Just a few months ahead of the Republican Iowa caucuses — and following criticism of his controversial comments on abortion — former President Donald Trump launched a pro-life campaign spot in Iowa claiming he is “fighting every day for the culture of life and for those who can’t fight for themselves.”

The Facebook ads, which ran between Oct. 10 and Oct. 13, suggested that Trump succeeded where decades of other Republican presidents failed. “For over 50 years, Republicans have promised to protect the sanctity of life,” the spot declared. “And while we waited, innocent unborn children fell victim.” 

“One Republican president didn’t just make promises — he delivered,” it intoned.

The ad touted the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade as a Trump pro-life victory, referencing his appointment of three justices to the Supreme Court, arguably the contributing factor in the overturning of Roe.

“Thousands of unborn children say thank you,” the ad stated.

The campaign spots were broadcast after the former president came under fire from pro-life groups for comments criticizing early protection of the unborn. Trump recently criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing a six-week abortion ban in that state. 

“I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” Trump said during an interview with NBC last month.

Trump in that same interview refused to commit to a specific federal ban on abortion, telling host Kristen Welker that he would “come up with a number” and “negotiate something.”

The former president’s apparent softening on the abortion issue drew immediate backlash from pro-life camps. Shawn Carney, founder and president of 40 Days for Life, told CNA last month that Trump’s attack on DeSantis was “politically stupid” and would not increase his standing among progressives.

“No liberal will now vote for Trump because he’s less pro-life,” Carney said.

Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action, similarly called Trump’s comments “pathetic and unacceptable.”

“Trump is actively attacking the very pro-life laws made possible by Roe’s overturning,” Rose said on X, formerly Twitter.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, meanwhile — who himself is angling for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — said Trump’s remarks “walk[ed] back away from what I believe where we need to be” on a federal ban of abortions at 15 weeks. 

And Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said after his comments that the country “need[s] a human rights advocate, someone who is dedicated to saving the lives of children and serving mothers in need. Every single candidate should be clear on how they plan to do that.”

During his time in office, Dannenfelser had earlier referred to him as the “most pro-life president ever.” 

Whether or not Trump’s Iowa ad represents a renewed focus on pro-life politics is unclear. CNA reached out to the Trump campaign about his comments and his recent ad, but the campaign did not immediately respond.

In addition to signing an executive order protecting infants born alive in failed abortion attempts, Trump was the first president of the United States to speak at the human rights demonstration the March for Life.

In several polls, Trump is leading by huge margins against his Republican rivals, with DeSantis a distant second.

The latest poll in October out of Iowa, which votes first in the race for the Republican ticket, has Trump polling at 55% above DeSantis, who is at 17%, with Nikki Haley following at 11%.

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