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Florida ruling poses latest test to Trump’s abortion strategy

Former President Trump’s position on abortion access is back in the spotlight, this time thanks to a Florida court ruling that has given Democrats an opening to attack Trump in his home state.

The Florida Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks and allowed a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy to go into effect in the coming weeks. Trump previously called the six-week ban a “terrible mistake” after his then-primary rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), signed it into law last year.

The ruling also approved a ballot measure that will go to voters in November that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.

But Trump and his campaign, aware of the political risks around the issue, have offered little substantive response to the major Florida decision.

Trump, a Florida resident, did not directly address a reporter’s question in Michigan on Tuesday about the state’s six-week ban, instead saying he would be making a statement on abortion next week.

One Republican source suggested Trump may make a “general statement” that will echo what he has said previously about allowing states to decide in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe.

A statement from a Trump campaign adviser did not address whether the former would support the six-week abortion ban or how he’d vote on the ballot measure.

“President Trump supports preserving life but has also made clear that he supports states’ rights because he supports the voters’ right to make decisions for themselves. Where President Trump thinks voters should have the last word, Biden and many democrats want to allow abortion up until the moment of birth and force taxpayers to pay for it,” said Brian Hughes, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.

President Biden has said he does not support abortion “on demand.”

Protecting abortion access has been a major motivator for Democrats since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, helping the party add a seat to its Senate majority, stave off a red wave in the House and win key state races in Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Trump has blamed Republican losses in the 2022 midterms on the GOP’s messaging around abortion, and his strategy has largely been to avoid committing to a specific policy proposal other than saying he supports exceptions for cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.

The former president has in recent weeks suggested there is a growing consensus among Republicans around a federal ban on the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy, though he has not explicitly endorsed such a policy at the federal level.

Trump has faced criticism from some conservatives, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, over his lack of a clear anti-abortion policy platform. But strategists said the former president is cognizant of the political risks around abortion and has significant leeway with Republican voters on the issue.

“He’s got carte blanche to navigate the issue, because he’s delivered and has the receipts with the base of the Republican Party, and they understand the stakes of 2024,” one GOP strategist told The Hill.

Among the actions Trump took during his first term was banning any providers that receive Title X funds from referring people for abortions or even counseling them about abortions. His White House in 2019 also announced an expansion of the so-called Mexico City policy that bans U.S. aid from going to foreign groups that promote or provide abortions.

And Trump has repeatedly bragged that he is responsible for bringing about the end of Roe v. Wade through his appointment of three conservative Supreme Court justices.

That has opened Trump up to attack on the issue, however, and polling has shown abortion is one area where voters trust Biden more than Trump. A Wall Street Journal poll of swing state voters published Wednesday found 45 percent of voters trust Biden more on the issue, compared to 33 percent who prefer Trump.

The Biden campaign has used the Florida court ruling as the latest opening to remind voters what Trump has said about abortion. The campaign released an ad Tuesday focusing specifically on Trump’s comments taking credit for ending Roe v. Wade.

Biden’s campaign manager wrote in a memo hours after the court ruling that Florida was “winnable,” though Trump carried his home state with ease in 2020.

And Vice President Harris argued the Florida ruling was the latest consequence of a Supreme Court decision that tied directly back to Trump.

“For Donald Trump, it is not enough that more than 1 in 3 women of reproductive age in America live in a state with a ban,” Harris said in a statement. “It is not enough that millions of women in America have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers. Yet, if Donald Trump has his way, he’ll gut abortion care in every state across the country – and he has the plans to do it.”

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