ANALYSIS – During his recent NBC interview, former president Donald Trump called Florida’s recently passed six-week abortion ban “terrible.” The ban was signed into law by his 2024 Republican campaign rival Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
Trump believes that picking six weeks as the line to draw for abortion banning is not politically viable nationally. He argued that both liberals and conservatives should agree on a compromise solution — a compromise number of weeks.
And to clarify, Trump said the six-week ban was: “terrible. A terrible mistake.”
He was saying that, politically, passing a six-week ban was a mistake, because it charges up the pro-abortion activists, and alienates moderate women needed to win nationally.
Like it or not, exit polls in 2022 showed that the rush to ban abortions outright by some states just after Roe vs Wade was reversed, scared away a lot of independents and moderate suburban women, contributing to the extremely weak results for Republicans in the last midterm elections.
Trump, the ever-ready wheeler dealer, also predicted that: “both sides are going to like me,” adding, “What’s going to happen is you’re going to come up with a number of weeks or months, you’re going to come up with a number that’s going to make people happy.”
Here I think Trump made a terrible choice of words. You don’t want the left to like you, even if you are trying to disarm them. But that’s the way he thinks and speaks.
The former president also said that he would be “a mediator” between both sides to come up with a policy that is “good for everybody.”
I take that to mean a compromise timeline on the number of weeks for banning abortion nationwide, and what exceptions to make.
Some pro-lifers immediately bashed Trump for his comments. The Christian Post reported on the backlash:
Trump’s criticism of Florida’s law that bans abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks of gestation, did not sit well with pro-life activists
Lila Rose, the founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, took to X to describe the former president’s remarks as “pathetic and unacceptable.”
“Trump is actively attacking the very pro-life laws made possible by Roe’s overturning,” Rose wrote. “Heartbeat Laws have saved thousands of babies. But Trump wants to compromise on babies’ lives so pro-abort Dems ‘like him.'”
And then there was conservative culture warrior Matthew Walsh, with whom I usually agree, who called Trump’s remarks as “an awful answer from a moral perspective” and “also stupid politically.”
In his post on X (formerly Twitter) Walsh said that “there is no compromise on abortion that everyone will like.”
“It’s delusional to think otherwise. And contrary to Trump’s claims, almost all Democrats are indeed extreme on this issue,” he added. “You will be hard pressed to find more than maybe two or three on the national stage who don’t want abortion until birth or beyond. You can’t win over Democrats by going squishy on this issue. Republicans have tried that brilliant strategy for decades and accomplished exactly nothing by it.”
But is Trump wrong?
A six-week ban based on a fetal heartbeat sounds very reasonable to me. And is fine for Florida.
But I know that won’t wash with many other folks across the country who aren’t extreme but prefer another timeline for banning abortion. GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who is staunchly pro-life, doesn’t believe a 15-week national ban is realistic either.
As governor of South Carolina, Haley signed a 20-week ban, joining 12 other states back then with bans.
Polls have shown that many, if not most, Democrats believe in some restrictions on abortion. Most, if not all Republicans will make exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother. Many would be happy with any reasonable ban, whether six, eight or ten weeks.
And Trump isn’t the only one who argues that taking a strident no compromise stance on abortion will hurt Republicans nationally. As the Christian Science Monitor reported:
At a closed-door conference meeting in the Capitol earlier this month, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave Senate Republicans a briefing that seemed intended to serve as a wake-up call. The Dobbs decision has “recharged the abortion debate and shifted more people (including some Republicans) into the anti-Dobbs ‘pro-choice’ camp,” the political action committee’s report stated. Some senators reportedly left the meeting brainstorming potential new labels, such as “pro-baby,” that could replace the increasingly fraught “pro-life.”
Unlike in the past, when conservative candidates could simply identify themselves as “pro-life” without having to be specific, they are now being peppered with questions about real policy choices: Should abortion be banned at the state or federal level? After how many weeks? With or without exceptions? What about abortion pill restrictions?
At one end of the 2024 spectrum are Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who have strongly leaned into an anti-abortion message. Both candidates have endorsed a national 15-week abortion ban.
By contrast, Mr. Trump, in his “Meet the Press” interview, declined to explicitly endorse a 15-week ban, drawing a rare rebuke this week from Senator Scott. Ms. Haley has outright dismissed a national 15-week ban as unrealistic – one of the “hard truths” that she has been delivering to voters across New Hampshire and Iowa. She says the Supreme Court was “right” to send abortion back to the states.
While I understand and appreciate the 100% pro-life stance, I also want to win the White House and Senate, and expand our lead in the House, so conservatives can keep pushing on this and other issues important to us.
So, Trump may not be wrong. We need to be more tactically flexible to win the bigger war.
Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Great America News Desk.