Trump won’t rule out 16-week abortion ban, but won’t commit either

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“As President Trump has stated, he would sit down with both sides and negotiate a deal that everyone will be happy with,” Karoline Leavitt, campaign press secretary, said in a statement.

Trump’s reported proposal would be less draconian than some state bans implemented by GOP politicians and would allow exceptions for rape, incest and life endangerment.

But a national 16-week ban would still restrict access for tens of millions, including those who live in Democratic-controlled states where abortion rights have recently been expanded.

President Joe Biden, who has sought to make reproductive rights a key element of his reelection effort, seized on the report and blasted the idea of a national ban.

“This election is about restoring our rights. Not restricting them,” Biden said in a statement. “Donald Trump is running to rip away your rights.”

Biden’s campaign organized a press call on Friday to capitalize on the Times’ report, where allies emphasized that even a 16-week ban would amount to a severe and unpopular restriction of womens’ rights.

“He’s trying to masquerade as a moderate,” said Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All. “We are going to make him own every inch of this crisis he created.”

The back-and-forth served as the latest illustration of the difficulty that Trump faces in finding a message on abortion, after Supreme Court justices he appointed were instrumental in the high court’s decision.

Since then, voter backlash to the decisions has plagued Republicans, contributing to a string of electoral losses and sparking a war within the GOP over how to proceed on the issue. Trump has notably avoided taking a clear stance, bragging about his role in overturning Roe but
refusing to publicly endorse
conservative groups’ push for federal restrictions.

Within minutes of the New York Times report, major anti-abortion groups were divided, with some endorsing Trump’s 16-week ban and others deeming it insufficient.

The president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America — which plans to spend a record $92 million this year on state and federal races and ballot initiative fights with the goal of maintaining and advancing abortion restrictions — called it a “compassionate position.”

“We strongly agree with President Trump on protecting babies from abortion violence at 16 weeks when they feel pain,” said SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who
previously demanded
candidates support a 15-week abortion ban.

But Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, was among those demanding Trump clarify his position and endorse stricter limits on the procedure.

“Mr. President, we ask you to stand for the needs of the innocent over the business interests of a billion-dollar abortion enterprise,” she said in a statement to POLITICO. “A limit on abortion at 4 months – 16 weeks – would allow for more than 9 in 10 abortions and will make no one happy; Not those who want to protect life in law, and not those whose entire agenda in 2024 is death by abortion at any cost.”

A 16-week ban, if approved by Congress, would have little effect on the vast majority of abortions that take place in the United States. Nearly 94 percent of abortions happen during the first trimester,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
.

Many anti-abortion leaders also oppose the exemptions for rape and incest Trump has publicly and privately called for, arguing that fetuses should be protected regardless of how they were conceived.

The Biden camp, meanwhile, signaled that its chief challenge remains persuading voters to reject the prospect of any new restrictions on abortion, no matter where Trump ultimately lands. On Friday’s call, campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez dismissed Trump’s suggestion of striking a deal “as desperate spin.”

“When he says he’s going to do more than anyone else to roll back abortion rights,” she said, “we believe him.”

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