Trump says abortion should be up to US states, avoids backing national ban

Joe Biden says Donald Trump is ‘scrambling’ as reproductive rights are set to be central issue ahead of November election.

Donald Trump speaks at a microphone
'The states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land,' US presidential candidate Donald Trump says about access to abortion [File: Rebecca Cook/Reuters]

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said the issue of abortion access should be left up to states to decide, eschewing calls from within his party to support a nationwide ban on the procedure in the United States.

In a video posted on his Truth Social platform on Monday, the former US president said he was “proudly the person responsible” for overturning Roe v Wade, the landmark legal precedent that had guaranteed abortion rights on the national level for decades.

The US Supreme Court, bolstered by a 6-3 conservative majority that included several Trump appointees, overturned Roe v Wade in June 2022. That put the question of abortion access largely in the hands of individual states to decide, though some anti-abortion activists have pushed for a nationwide ban to be implemented.

“The states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land,” Trump said in Monday’s video.

“Many states will be different,” he said, adding that, “At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.”

Reproductive rights are expected to be a central issue heading into November’s presidential election, which is set to pit Trump against his Democratic Party rival, President Joe Biden.

Biden has made defending access to reproductive healthcare a central plank of his re-election campaign, condemning Trump and Republican Party lawmakers for supporting the end of Roe v Wade.

Conservatives had spent decades trying to overturn the 1973 legal precedent, and several Republican-led US states enacted strict limits on abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision nearly two years ago, in a case known as Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

But abortion has become an Achilles heel for the Republican Party, as polls show abortion bans and restrictions are unpopular and most Americans want to protect access to the procedure.

The Pew Research Center reported in April 2023 — nearly a year after Roe was overturned — that 62 percent of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 36 percent who said it should be illegal.

Looking along partisan lines, the survey found that 84 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 40 percent of Republicans or right-leaning independents said the same.

November’s election is expected to be hard fought, and experts say Trump could risk losing votes in critical swing states if he were to come out strongly in favour of a national abortion ban.

Jeanette Hoffman, a Republican political consultant, told the Reuters news agency that “leaving abortion to the states is [Trump’s] way of punting on the issue”.

“Now that the primary is over, there’s nothing to be gained from proposing a national abortion ban, as he’ll lose support from voters in many swing states,” Hoffman said.

Trump’s comments on Monday drew criticism from anti-abortion groups in the US, however.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America, said the organisation was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s position.

The Supreme Court’s 2022 decision “clearly allows both states and Congress to act”, she said in a statement. “Saying the issue is ‘back to the states’ cedes the national debate to the Democrats.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Republican and ally of the former president, also said he disagreed with Trump’s stance.

“I will continue to advocate that there should be a national minimum standard limiting abortion at fifteen weeks,” Graham wrote on the social media platform X.

Meanwhile, Biden slammed his predecessor for making “it clear once again today that he is — more than anyone in America — the person responsible for ending Roe v Wade”.

“Trump is scrambling,” Biden said in a statement.

“He’s worried that since he’s the one responsible for overturning Roe the voters will hold him accountable in 2024. Well, I have news for Donald. They will.”

Source: Al Jazeera