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Trump says abortion should be left to states, disappointing pro-life advocates

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, issued a video statement April 8 arguing abortion should be left to individual states to legislate and declining to back federal restrictions sought by pro-life activists.

In a video posted to his social media platform Truth Social, Trump took credit for the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned its previous abortion precedent since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But Trump said that “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.”

Throughout his third bid for the White House, Trump has been reluctant to take a firm position on abortion. He previously blamed the issue of abortion and pro-life voters for the Republican Party’s underperformance in the 2022 midterm election cycle, prompting criticism from even some of his supporters. Analysts, by contrast, blamed in part quality issues with Republican campaigns in that cycle and Trump’s repeated, unproven claims of a stolen 2020 election for the party’s underperformance.

Trump’s statement, in effect, dodges calls from pro-life groups who sought a pledge from the candidate to support federal restrictions, and repudiates reports that he would embrace a national abortion ban at 15 or 16 weeks in pregnancy.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which works to elect pro-life candidates to public office, previously called on candidates for national office to support restrictions on elective abortion after 15 weeks gestation. Dannenfelser said in a statement April 8, “We are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position.

“Unborn children and their mothers deserve national protections and national advocacy from the brutality of the abortion industry,” Dannenfelser said. “The Dobbs decision clearly allows both states and Congress to act.”

“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,” she added. “If successful, they will wipe out states’ rights.”

But Dannenfelser said, “With lives on the line, SBA Pro-Life America and the pro-life grassroots will work tirelessly to defeat President Biden and extreme congressional Democrats.”

Students for Life Action President Kristan Hawkins struck a different tone, saying in a statement, “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. “We clearly have some work to do to educate the Trump Administration to come on the many ways that abortion has been made federal. But with the mutual goals of supporting families and welcoming young children, we can work together to restore the culture of life stripped away by the national Democratic Party and their leadership.”

OSV News reached out to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities, but did not receive an immediate response.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death, opposing direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

After the Dobbs decision, church officials in the U.S. have reiterated the church’s concern for both mother and child, and called to bolster streams of support addressing causes that push women toward having an abortion.

Elsewhere in the video, Trump said that he supports access to in vitro fertilization in every state after a ruling by Alabama’s Supreme Court found that frozen embryos qualify as children under the state law’s wrongful death law. The state subsequently enacted legislation granting legal protection to IVF clinics.

The 1987 document from the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith known as “Donum Vitae” or “The Gift of Life,” states the church opposes IVF and related practices, including gestational surrogacy, in part because “the connection between in vitro fertilization and the voluntary destruction of human embryos occurs too often.”

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