‘Let states decide’: How Donald Trump’s position on abortion has changed

Trump did not call for a national abortion ban, disappointing anti-abortion activists. How has his stance changed?

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally in Conway, S.C.
In a video on Monday, Trump said he was 'proudly the person responsible for the ending' the constitutional right to an abortion, referring to the overturn of Roe v Wade [File: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP]

After months of speculation about his position amid pressure from both Republicans and Democrats, former United States President Donald Trump said on Monday that he believes abortion limits should be left to individual states to decide, declining to endorse a national ban.

In a video posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump said: “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.”

He also took credit for the overturning of Roe v Wade by the US Supreme Court in 2022, a decision that led to 24 US states enacting laws banning nearly all abortions by January 2023.

On the other hand, he voiced his support for abortion under three exceptions, in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.

Until now, Trump’s stance on abortion has repeatedly shifted over the years. Here’s how:

October 1999: A ‘pro-choice’ Trump comes out against abortion

During an interview with NBC, Trump deemed himself “very pro-choice”, yet added: “I hate the concept of abortion.”

January 2000: Trump says he would support an abortion ban

Trump cited the interview from October 1999 in his book, The America We Deserve, and said he had consulted doctors on the matter. He concluded that he would support an abortion ban. At the same time, however, he wrote in his book that he supported a woman’s right to choose.

April 2011: Trump is ‘pro-life’

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said that he considered himself to be “pro-life”, and had changed his view “a number of years ago” when his friend’s wife was pregnant with an unwanted baby.

The friend ended up having the baby and “the baby is the apple of his eye. He said it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him,” said Trump in the interview.

January 2015: Trump reiterates that he is ‘pro-life’

In a Bloomberg interview, Trump reiterated that he was against abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.

February 2016: Trump says he will defund Planned Parenthood

Trump said that if he were elected as US president, he would cut federal funding for the reproductive healthcare provider and abortion rights organisation, Planned Parenthood.

At the same time, he acknowledged that Planned Parenthood provides vital support to women suffering from cervical cancer and breast cancer. “I would defund it because I’m pro-life, but millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood,” he said during a 2016 debate.

March 2016: Trump endorses punishment for women who seek abortions

In an MSNBC town hall while Trump was still a Republican candidate for president, he said women who seek abortions should be subject to “some form of punishment”.

October 2017: Trump backs 20-week abortion ban

The US House of Representatives passed legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in most cases. Upon its passing, Trump’s White House announced it “strongly supports” the bill.

January to May 2018: Trump asks Senate to back abortion ban

Trump asked the Senate to approve the House’s 20-week abortion ban and promised to sign it if it got approved, which it never did.

June 2022: Roe v Wade is overturned

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. Three of the justices who voted to overturn it had been appointed by Trump. They included Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

March 2024: Trump stays ambivalent on a national ban

During a radio interview in late March this year, Trump criticised Democrats for not backing a ban limiting abortions in states which still permit the procedure. He suggested that the ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy “seems to be a number that people are agreeing at”.

At the same time, he was reluctant to come out in favour of a federal ban on abortions during the interview.

April 2024: Trump says states should be left to decide on abortion bans.

Source: Al Jazeera