Trump says states should decide on prosecuting women for abortions, has no comment on abortion pill

Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — Former President Donald Trump says in a new interview it should be left to the states whether to prosecute women for abortions or whether to monitor women's pregnancies. He declined to comment on access to the abortion pill mifepristone, which has been embroiled in an intense legal battle.

In an interview published Tuesday by Time magazine, Trump responded to questions about how he would handle various abortion questions if elected by repeatedly saying it should be left up to the states.

“You don’t need a federal ban,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. “Roe v. Wade ... wasn’t about abortion so much as bringing it back to the states. So the states would negotiate deals. Florida is going to be different from Georgia and Georgia is going to be different from other places.”

When asked if he would veto a bill that would impose a federal ban, he reiterated “it’s about states rights” and said “there will never be that chance” because Republicans, even if they take back the Senate in November, would not have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and bring the bill to a vote.

Trump repeated his catchall states-rights response when asked if states should monitor women’s pregnancies so the government would know if they had an abortion. Amid debates about criminalizing women for getting abortions, including those who self-manage with medication, experts have raised alarm over how modern surveillance technologies could help law enforcement agencies track and investigate abortions.

Trump also deferred to the states when asked if a woman should be punished for getting an abortion after a state has banned or restricted the procedure.

“The states are going to make that decision,” Trump said. “The states are going to have to be comfortable or uncomfortable, not me.”

Democrats have recently seized on comments Trump made in 2016, saying “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions.

Abortion is a central campaign issue in the 2024 presidential election as Trump seeks a more cautious stance on the issue, which has become a vulnerability for Republicans and has driven turnout for Democrats. Trump’s deferring to individual states has drawn criticism from Democrats as well as conservatives and anti-abortion groups seeking a federal ban.

The national anti-abortion group SBA Pro-Life America said in a statement that it was "disappointed in President Trump’s position of relegating a human rights issue to the states.” The organization also claimed Democrats would scrap the filibuster in order to “impose their agenda of abortion without limit on the entire country.”

SBA advocates for a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and saving the life of the mother, but the organization has voiced support for states with stricter bans.

As president, Trump appointed three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who helped form the majority that overturned the constitutional right to abortion, and he has taken credit for that during his campaign. Earlier this month, he said he was “proudly the person responsible for the ending” of the 50-year-old ruling, Roe v. Wade.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has blamed Trump for a deluge of state abortion restrictions put into effect since the ruling two years ago. His campaign also has warned that a second Trump term could lead to nationwide abortion restrictions. Most recently, Biden blamed Trump for Florida’s six-week abortion ban during campaign events in the state last week.

“Donald Trump’s latest comments leave little doubt: If elected he’ll sign a national abortion ban, allow women who have an abortion to be prosecuted and punished, allow the government to invade women’s privacy to monitor their pregnancies, and put IVF and contraception in jeopardy nationwide,” Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement responding to the Time interview.

Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All, also expressed doubts about Trump’s emphasis on moderation by leaving the issue up to the states.

“There is zero doubt in my mind that Trump will choose anti-abortion extremists and their horrifying agenda over American families every single chance he gets," she said.

Trump declined to speak with Time about mifepristone as access to the abortion pill has been thrown into uncertainty amid a legal battle that’s made its way to the Supreme Court.

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate also have long pressed Trump to make clear his views on the Comstock Act, a 19th Century law that has been revived by anti-abortion groups seeking to block the mailing of mifepristone. Trump declined to comment on the act, saying only that he has “pretty strong views” on the matter and would make a statement on it over the next 14 days.

“In Trump’s America, people will be punished for having abortions, the government will monitor women’s pregnancies, and he’ll weaponize and misuse the 19th-Century Comstock laws to try and criminalize doctors and outlaw abortion nationwide,” Jenny Lawson, executive director, Planned Parenthood Votes, said in a statement.

Trump's comments were consistent with his recent strategy to show more moderation on abortion rights as he seeks to appeal to a general electorate. Trump has previously voiced disagreement with abortion restrictions in individual states, including Arizona's Civil War-era ban and Florida's six-week ban. In the Time interview, Trump repeated that he “thought six weeks is too severe.”

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