President Trump speaks. Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, gives a statement on abortion policy in this screengrab obtained from a video released April 8. (OSV News photo by DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT 2024 handout via Reuters)

Pro-life groups ‘deeply disappointed’ in Trump’s abortion stance

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 of pregnancy. 

Pro-life groups ‘deeply disappointed’ in Trump’s position 

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.” 

Former VP Mike Pence calls Trump’s ‘retreat’ on life a ‘slap in the face’ 

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was Trump’s running mate in the 2016 and 2020 elections but broke with Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and by rejecting Trump’s unfounded claims of a stolen election, wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that Trump’s “retreat on the Right to Life is a slap in the face to the millions of pro-life Americans who voted for him in 2016 and 2020.”

“By nominating and standing by the confirmation of conservative justices, the Trump-Pence Administration helped send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs and gave the pro-life movement the opportunity to compassionately support women and unborn children,” Pence said. “In the landmark Dobbs decision, the Supreme Court returned the question of abortion to the states and the American people. The American people elect presidents, senators and congressmen, and a majority of Americans long to see minimum national protections for the unborn in federal law.” 

Pence added, “But today, too many Republican politicians are all too ready to wash their hands of the battle for life. Republicans win on life when we speak the truth boldly and stand on the principle that we all know to be true — human life begins at conception and should be defended from womb to tomb. However much our Republican nominee or other candidates seek to marginalize the cause of life, I know pro-life Americans will never relent until we see the sanctity of life restored to the center of American law in every state in this country.” 

Bishop: Life needs protecting at both the state and federal levels 

In comments provided to OSV News by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va., chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro Life Activities, said that “with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case that returned the issue of abortion to the people and their elected officials, legislators have a responsibility to protect vulnerable preborn life not only at the state level, but also at the federal level.” 

“The federal effort must include undoing the current Administration’s aggressive abortion-promoting regulations, preventing taxpayers from subsidizing abortion, and pursuing nationwide standards,” Bishop Burbidge said. “Life-affirming and moral alternatives to infertility are necessary but we oppose methods such as IVF, which, among other problems, results in the death or abandonment of more children than are created through it.” 

Students for Life Action President Kristan Hawkins struck a different tone from Dannenfelser, 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.” 

Catholic Church has worked to bolster support of moms and children 

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. 

In video statement, Trump also supported in-vitro fertilization 

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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