Pro-Life Leaders Meet with Trump to Reinforce Federal Strategy
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has shared the details about his meeting with former President Donald Trump amid media reports the Republican front-runner had backed away from the pro-life issue ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Last month, a Trump campaign spokesman told The Washington Post that Trump believes abortion “should be decided at the state level,” touching off media speculation that the candidate would take no federal action to protect life during a second term. Perkins met the 45th president alongside Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser on Monday afternoon.
“The purpose of the meeting was simply to encourage the president to stay strong on the issue of the sanctity of human life. And I can report that the former president, Donald Trump, has not changed his position,” Perkins told listeners of “Washington Watch” on Tuesday.
“There was some mischaracterizations of some things that he had said,” Perkins added.
The four leaders found common ground talking about the Republican Party platform, which Perkins has helped craft for the last four election cycles.
“We support state and federal efforts against the cruelest forms of abortion,” says the most recent Republican Party platform (emphasis added). The GOP’s guiding document also calls on Congress to pass a plethora of pro-life legislation ending abortions based on a child’s sex or disability diagnosis, as well as dismemberment abortions, and to adopt a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision does not preclude abortion-related legislation at the federal level. “It’s a states issue, but it’s also a federal issue,” Perkins explained. “The court said this is in the hands of elected officials, not judges.”
“I talked about that with him. And I said, ‘Look, that’s the standard. It was there before Roe was overturned. Why should it change?’” said Perkins. “When a baby feels pain and is sucking his thumb in his mother’s womb, that ought to be a place we can draw the line. We’ve got 67% of Americans who agree that abortion across the board should be outlawed after that.”
“I’m pleased to say that the president understood that,” Perkins told his audience.
Trump remains the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, holding a commanding a 29-point lead over his nearest challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), according to the RealClear Politics average of national polls.
Perkins also noted that Trump was not the only — or even the first — presidential hopeful he had briefed on pro-life, pro-family issues.
“I’ve sat down with a couple of them already. This will be my third” candidate consultation meeting, Perkins revealed. “I will meet with any presidential candidate to have a discussion about the issues, and where they should be on these issues to connect with what we call SAGE Cons,” a term coined by pollster George Barna meaning Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservatives.
Perkins, a former elected official, made clear meeting with Trump did not constitute an endorsement in the 2024 presidential race. “I will not be endorsing a presidential candidate in the primary. I will be sitting down, talking with any and all” candidates who “want to talk about the issues that matter,” he said, specifying the sanctity of human life, human sexuality, tax policy that impacts the family, and religious freedom — “anything that touches the family.”
Democrats eked out a better-than-expected midterm election in 2022 in part by flooding the zone with abortion-related messaging portraying Republicans as extreme — largely without GOP pushback. That makes it pivotal for would-be office holders to grasp the issue thoroughly, said FRC Action Vice President Brent Keilen. “We have to remember that the science hasn’t change. And so the policies that the Republican Party has stood for over the last decades that were based and are based off of the science, should not change, either.”
While some in the GOP have advocated a states-only response to abortion, Democratic leaders have already tried to impose their permissive views on the entire nation. “Republicans are pushing for this to go back to the states,” said Keilen. “That is not at all what the Democrats are pushing for.”
The House of Representatives, then controlled by Democrats, passed the “Women’s Health Protection Act” by a near party-line vote last July. The bill would strike down most of the 1,381 pro-life protections enacted by state legislatures between 1973 and the Supreme Court’s Dobbs 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 Democratic Party platform calls for taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand without restriction until the moment of birth as a matter of “health, rights, and justice.” Adopting that position has forced the U.S. to join a handful of rogue human rights abusers that place no federal limit on abortion, including North Korea and China. President Trump, who famously campaigned to “Make America Great Again,” “believes such a position is unworthy of a great nation and believes the American people will rebel against such a radical position,” Dannenfelser said.
“That is the standard position of the Democrat Party that is only supported by about one in five Americans, so you have 80% of the country, according to recent polling, that opposes” Democratic orthodoxy, said Keilen. Only 19% of Americans believe abortion should be permitted “in all cases, with no exceptions,” according to a 2022 Pew Research Center poll. “That doesn’t even get into the Born-alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which we have not been able to get passed, which would afford those protections to a baby who survives a failed abortion,” Keilen added.
“If you message on this well, the vast majority of Americans are with you on this issue,” said Keilen.
Eyeing a massive wedge issue, GOP leaders have encouraged Republican candidates to attack Democratic extremism. “We are the pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family party, and we can win on abortion. But that means putting Democrats on the defense,” said Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel after the initial Trump brouhaha.
Days later, Trump attacked “the extreme late-term abortionists in the Democrat Party, who believe in abortion-on-demand in the ninth month of pregnancy, and even executing babies after birth.” That rhetoric echoes Trump’s successful strategy in the 2016 presidential campaign. During the third and final debate on October 19, Trump said under Hillary Clinton’s policy, “you can take the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day, and that’s not acceptable.”
That off-the-cuff remark became a revelation to pro-life leaders. “At that moment, I said, ‘He’s going to win this. He is going to secure the votes of pro-life voters.’ And he did,” said Perkins. “What’s more than that is: He actually followed through. … His policies were unprecedented when it came to advancing human life.” Trump named three of the six justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade last June, supported the Hyde Amendment, and signed numerous measures partially defunding abortion businesses such as Planned Parenthood.
After the latest media flare-up, Trump signaled his openness to signing the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” introduced by Graham, which protects babies from abortion after 15 weeks. “We’ll get something done” in a second term, Trump promised.
“Going forward, I think he’s going to be very clear on this. That’s my hope. That’s what I believe to be the case,” Perkins said.
“And we will not back up from this issue one bit,” Perkins assured his listeners. Effective promotion of pro-life protections, at any level of government, “will be the benchmark of how we evaluate conservative Bible-based candidates for office.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.