NATIONAL NEWS

Republicans move at Trump’s behest to change how they will oppose abortion

Jul 7, 2024, 9:21 PM

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks during a presidential debate...

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks during a presidential debate hosted by CNN with President Joe Biden, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Republican National Committee moved Monday to adopt a party platform that reflects former President Donald Trump’s position opposing a federal abortion ban and ceding limits to states, omitting the explicit basis for a national ban for the first time in 40 years.

Trump imposed his priorities on the RNC’s platform committee as he seeks to steer clear during his campaign of strict abortion language, even while taking credit for setting up the 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. Trump appointed three of the six justices who voted in the majority to overturn the 1973 precedent that established a national right to have an abortion.

The scaled-down platform — just 16 pages and with limited specifics on many key Republican issues — reflects a desire by the Trump campaign to avoid giving Democrats more material for their warnings about the former president’s intentions if he wins back the White House. President Joe Biden’s campaign has repeatedly highlighted the “Project 2025” document produced by Trump allies as well as Trump’s own promises to impose wide-ranging tariffs, replace thousands of government workers with party loyalists and stage the largest deportation operation in U.S. history.

The policy document sticks to the party’s longstanding principle that the Constitution extends rights to fetuses, but removes language maintaining support for an “amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth,” a passage in the party platform first included in 1984.

It asserts, “We believe that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that no person can be denied life or liberty without due process.” The document also noted “that the states are, therefore, free to pass laws protecting those rights.”

The abortion language was first reported by The New York Times.

Anti-abortion advocates who had criticized the Trump campaign’s efforts leading up to the platform committee’s meeting largely fell in line Monday.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, praised the committee for reaffirming “its commitment to protect unborn life through the 14th Amendment.”

Dannenfelser stopped short of endorsing the document’s reflection of Trump’s view that the matter rests entirely with states. Under the 14th Amendment, “it is Congress that enacts and enforces its provisions.”

The platform committee began its meeting Monday, a week before the start of the Republican National Convention in Wisconsin where Trump is scheduled to accept his third straight nomination for president.

The platform is a statement of first principles traditionally written by party activists. In 2016, the platform included an endorsement of a 20-week national ban. Trump had supported federal legislation in 2018 that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, though the measure fell short of the necessary support in the Senate.

Trump this year has faced months of Democratic criticism over abortion as Biden’s reelection campaign has highlighted that Trump nominated half of the Supreme Court majority that struck down the nationwide right to abortion in 2022.

In promoting the platform document, the campaign released a statement highlighting 20 issues it addresses, including immigration, the economy, energy, taxes and crime, but omitted any mention of abortion in the subject titles.

Among the vocal abortion opponents on the platform committee, some say the aspiration of a federal ban on abortion after a certain stage in pregnancy must remain a party principle, even if it’s not an immediately attainable policy or one that necessarily helps the Trump campaign in November.

“I see that as problematic. We still need these principles clearly stated. Some of these battles are not over,” said Iowa state Rep. Brad Sherman, a platform committee member who supported Trump’s winning Iowa caucus campaign in January and also supports a federal limit on abortion.

Conservative activists who were accustomed to having a seat at the table fumed beforehand over what they said was a secretive process for selecting committee members and the meeting taking place behind closed doors.

“For 40 years, the Republican Party and the GOP platform have massively benefitted from an open and transparent process,” said Tim Chapman, the incoming president of Advancing American Freedom, a foundation headed by Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump’s campaign has sought to reshape the Republican National Committee into a campaign vessel. It signaled in a memo last month from senior campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles that “textbook-long platforms … are scrutinized and intentionally misrepresented by our political opponents.”

Trump ally Russ Vought is serving as the policy director of the Republican Party’s platform writing committee while also leading the effort to draft the 180-day agenda for Project 2025, a sweeping proposal for remaking government that Trump said Friday he knew “nothing about” despite having several former aides involved.

After the 2022 midterm elections, Trump blamed Republicans who held strict anti-abortion positions for the party’s failure to secure a larger House majority. He has since been critical of the most stringent abortion bans in individual states.

An AP-NORC poll conducted in June 2023 found that about two-thirds of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The poll also found that 6 in 10 Americans think Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.

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Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux contributed from Washington.

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Republicans move at Trump’s behest to change how they will oppose abortion