Beyond Dobbs: Trump, GOP Rivals Back National Pro-Life Protections
President Donald Trump has been called many names, but he would like to add one more: abortion terminator.
“We terminated Roe v. Wade,” declared the 45th president on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on Saturday. He and other GOP presidential hopefuls also advocated expanding protections to unborn children at all levels of government while addressing the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority policy conference.
“There of course remains a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life” in a post-Dobbs America. “Every child, born and unborn, is made in the holy image of God, and that is why I have asked Congress to prohibit late term abortion of babies,” he said. “We will defeat the radical Democrat policy of extreme, late-term abortion.”
The former president told the fired-up crowd, during his four years in office, “I got it done.” His record of life-protecting executive actions includes:
- Trump appointed three of the six justices who handed down the Dobbs ruling, clarifying that the Constitution never contained the unalienable “right” to abortion liberal justices claimed to discover in 1973;
- Trump introduced the HHS Protect Life Rule, which prevented Title X funds from going to offices that carry out abortions, such as Planned Parenthood — a policy supported by 60% of Americans;
- He expanded President Reagan’s Mexico City Policy into the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy, which protected U.S. taxpayers from funding abortion or entities that promote abortion overseas — a policy supported by 78% of Americans;
- Trump’s Justice Department sued the University of Vermont Medical Center in 2020 for forcing a woman to participate in an abortion — a policy supported by 77% of Americans; and
- President Trump promised to “veto any legislation that weakens existing Federal protections for human life” and sign federal legislation safeguarding unborn children capable of experiencing pain from abortion.
Trump’s forward-looking agenda followed a May 8 meeting with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) after media outlets reported the president believed all future pro-life legislation should be left at the state level. “The purpose of the meeting was simply to encourage the president to stay strong on the issue of the sanctity of human life,” including the federal level, Perkins told his “Washington Watch” audience two days after the meeting. “I’m pleased to say that the president understood.”
Congress and the next president must take action at the federal level to protect life, Trump’s erstwhile partner-turned-rival Mike Pence told the conference. “Some will come up to this podium and say that the Supreme Court returned the decision back to the states, and nothing more should be done at the federal level,” said Pence during a speech on Friday. “The cause of life is the calling of our time, and we must not rest or relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of law in every state in this country.”
“Every Republican candidate for president should support a ban on abortion before 15 weeks as a minimum nationwide standard,” said Pence — a sentiment shared by fellow presidential candidate Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
“A minimum ban of 15 weeks on the federal level will help us get to a place where there are fewer late-term abortions, and fewer and fewer abortions,” said Scott. “The radical Left has lost so much faith in America that they’ve lost faith in life itself, but we are here to tell them that life is good — and we are proud to be Americans.”
National pro-life leaders have encouraged presidential hopefuls to embrace the issue of life and expose Democratic candidates who cannot name a single pro-life policy they would enact. “Any candidate who wants to qualify from our perspective of being a candidate has to at least be for the 15-week limit [on abortion]. Otherwise, we will not support you,” Dannenfelser told the Townhall for Life, organized by FRC, last Wednesday night. “You tell me: Can you win the presidency without the pro-life movement?”
Her co-panelist, Senator Graham, introduced a bill protecting children conceived after 15 weeks — the Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act (H.R. 8814) — with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) last fall. Nearly three out of four Americans (72%) believe abortion should not be allowed after 15 weeks — including 60% of Democrats, 70% of registered independents, and 75% of women — according to a Harvard/Harris poll supervised by former Clinton strategist Mark Penn.
Trump’s most significant opponent for the Republican Party presidential nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, told the audience on Friday that he has spent his tenure in the governor’s mansion “promoting a culture of life. That means signing the heartbeat bill into law. That protects unborn children when there’s a detectable heartbeat,” a process that science notes begins by six weeks gestation.
“A 15-week ban still includes [94%] of all abortions, so it may be a starting point, but it’s not an end point,” noted Ryan Bomberger, the founder and chief creative officer of The Radiance Foundation, at the opening panel of the Pray Vote Stand Summit in Atlanta last September.
This weekend’s conference also heard from Republican presidential hopefuls such as talk show host Larry Elder, Ohio-based businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, businessman Perry Johnson, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. Christie, who once advocated a national ban on the abortion of pain-capable babies, now says he “would not be for the federal government being involved in the issue of abortion in any way.”
After the conference, Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison slammed Trump for allegedly endorsing “a national abortion ban” during his speech. But the Democratic Party has also promised to nationalize the abortion issue.
“We are not going to stop until Roe v. Wade is the law of the land once again,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) last week to commemorate the Dobbs anniversary. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) added, “Democrats will never, never stop fighting to protect” abortion-on-demand.
The pair have advanced or voted for sweeping, top-down legislation such as H.R. 8296, the so-called “Women’s Health Protection” Act, which passed the House of Representatives by a near party-line vote last July. The bill would strike down nearly all 1,381 pro-life protections enacted by state legislatures in the 50 years since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, including:
- prohibiting sex-selective abortions;
- barring many abortions after viability;
- preventing abortions on babies 20 weeks or older, who are capable of feeling pain;
- disallowing abortions undertaken without parental consent or notification;
- prohibiting telemedicine abortion drug prescriptions, which involve no in-person medical examination;
- banning unlicensed individuals from carrying out abortions;
- allowing pregnant mothers to receive scientifically accurate information about their babies’ development, or to see an ultrasound or hear the child’s fetal heartbeat; and
- allowing pro-life medical professionals the right to refuse to participate in an abortion.
The dueling approaches to abortion grow out of the two parties’ contrasting platforms. The most recent Republican Party platform endorses “state and federal efforts against the cruelest forms of abortion,” including discrimination-based abortions, due to the child’s sex or disability status, and dismemberment abortions. It also calls on Congress to adopt a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clarifying that “the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”
The Democratic Party platform promotes taxpayer-funded abortion until the moment of birth, vowing to “codify the right to” abortion, which it euphemistically calls “reproductive freedom.”
Abortion motivates voters in both parties’ bases, and reclaiming the White House in 2024 will take the entire Republican Party constituency, said Trump. “Together, we’re warriors in a righteous crusade to stop the arsonists, the atheists, globalists, and the Marxists — and that’s what they are — and we will restore our republic as one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.