RFK Jr. campaign says he supports abortion limits at ‘fetal viability’ and ‘differs’ from Shanahan on 15-18 week limits

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign said late Thursday that he supports restricting abortion access at “fetal viability” and that comments from running mate Nicole Shanahan — about the campaign supporting federal limits “between 15 and 18 weeks” of gestation — do not reflect Kennedy’s views. It’s just the latest mixed messaging over the campaign’s abortion position after it walked back recent comments Kennedy made in opposition to government limits.

“Mr. Kennedy’s position differs from Ms. Shanahan’s, in that he believes the cutoff should be at fetal viability. But both are aligned with the emerging national consensus of no restrictions up till a certain point and restrictions thereafter,” campaign spokesperson Stefanie Spear told CNN. Most experts say fetal viability occurs at around 23-24 weeks of gestation.

Shanahan said in an interview on the “Cartier Family” podcast released Wednesday that the Kennedy campaign “very much supports limits” on abortion access, explaining that the independent presidential candidate arrived at the position after conversations with both abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion supporters on his campaign.

“The campaign stance right now is very much, you know, looking at terms and limits, and the campaign very much supports limits on abortion,” she said.

When asked at what period the Kennedy campaign would want to set limits on abortion, Shanahan responded, “It, you know, moves around between 15 and 18 weeks.”

The divergence between the running mates’ comments is only the latest in the Kennedy’s campaign’s changing viewpoints on abortion, which have ranged from total opposition to government limits to support for abortion restrictions in the final months of pregnancy in line with the framework created through Roe v. Wade.

Kennedy said in a podcast interview released last week that he opposes any government limits on abortion access. When asked if he supported keeping abortion legal “even if it’s full term” – referring to the possibility of an abortion near the expected delivery date of a child – Kennedy responded affirmatively.

His comments inspired blowback from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which said his comments made him “unacceptable to million of pro-life voters nationwide.”

Angela Stanton King, a Kennedy campaign adviser who has guided him on abortion policies, criminal justice and Black voter outreach, publicly denounced Kennedy’s comments in social media posts.

Kennedy subsequently walked back his comment the following day after speaking with campaign staff, including Stanton King. In a social media post clarifying his position, he said “abortion should be legal up until a certain number of weeks” and that abortion should be restricted “in the final months of pregnancy.”

In his statement, Kennedy did not say what he believed to be an appropriate limit on abortion access but indicated support for restrictions based on the framework created through Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability.

“I support the emerging consensus that abortion should be unrestricted up until a certain point. I believe that point should be when the baby is viable outside the womb,” Kennedy said in the statement last week. “Therefore I would allow appropriate restrictions on abortion in the final months of pregnancy, just as Roe v. Wade did.”

Kennedy himself previously expressed support for a federal abortion restriction at three months while he was running for president as a Democrat last year, but his campaign quickly walked back that position.

In the new interview, Shanahan also expressed support for individual states deciding on abortion access, echoing Kennedy’s skepticism of the federal government regulating health care. But she said she’s concerned state-level abortion restrictions could make the issue “over-politicized.”

“I think that the trend towards, you know, states making these decisions is good. The thing that makes me worried in those instances is it becoming, again, over-politicized for election reasons, and then swinging too far,” she said. “Because, you know, even very religious people in this country felt that, you know, the overall political politicization of this issue has led to stances that have been more extreme than they even intended.”

Democrats have seized on Shanahan’s openness to letting individual states determine abortion access. Lis Smith, who is leading the efforts to combat third-party candidates at the Democratic National Committee, blasted the Kennedy-Shanahan ticket for being untrustworthy on the issue of reproductive rights.

“Wow. When Nicole Shanahan sees state after state banning abortion, she thinks it’s ‘good.’ This after Robert Kennedy Jr. said he would sign a national abortion ban. They CANNOT be trusted on abortion rights,” Smith wrote on social media Thursday.

Shanahan fired back, accusing Smith of “taking cheap shots” at her and misrepresenting her policy position.

“I said allowing communities to work it out for themselves is good. Bringing women’s choice closer to women is a positive thing,” Shanahan responded. “Let’s agree that women in our age group are struggling to build the families they want and do something about that, rather than airlifting one word from a two-minute video and taking cheap shots.”

A statement from the DNC later accused Kennedy of hiding from his “abortion extremism” while highlighting state-level abortion restrictions that, the committee asserted, puts “women’s lives at risk.”

“Kicking it down to the states has led to dangerous abortion bans from Alabama to North Dakota, putting women’s lives at risk and ripping away access to care,” the statement read.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Eva McKend contributed to this report.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com