Amid Abortion Backlash, Trump Has Advice for Iowans

Trump explained how Democrats are turning voters away from Republicans who take too hard a line on abortion.
Amid Abortion Backlash, Trump Has Advice for Iowans
Former President Donald Trump during a political rally in Erie, Pa., on July 29, 2023. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Catherine Yang
A storm of controversy has followed former President Donald Trump's recent comments on abortion in a recent "Meet the Press" interview, with concerns he would not take pro-life policy as seriously as other candidates.

During a rally on Wednesday, he had some words for his Iowa audience about abortion laws.

“Without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win elections,” he said. “We would probably lose majorities [in Congress] in 2024 without the exceptions, and perhaps the presidency itself.”

He said people should "follow their heart" when it comes to their stance on abortion, not asking them to be convinced by any specific proposal. But, he added, Republicans "have to win elections" by speaking more clearly about abortion. He denounced the no-limit abortion policies that Democrats favor as "radical."

“We have to expose the Democrats … as being the true radicals. They’re the radicals. Pro-lifers aren’t the radicals,” President Trump said. “In order to win in 2024, Republicans must learn how to properly talk about abortion."

One such example is Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who campaigned for the governor's seat on a no exceptions pro-life platform. Political opponents cast him as a radical, releasing a recent video ad in which a childhood rape survivor looks directly into the camera and addresses Mr. Cameron, telling him "to tell a 12 year-old-girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable." Mr. Cameron has since changed his tune, saying he would support adding exceptions for rape and incest.

No Ban?

During the NBC interview he directly answered "no" when asked whether he would sign a 15 week federal ban—something other GOP candidates have pushed for—saying that he would not commit to any policy before bringing more people into the room for a discussion.

The former president claimed credit for overturning Roe v. Wade, as he had made three appointments to the Supreme Court that ultimately ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson last year. That ruling returned power back to the states to legislate on abortion as they choose. It's not clear that taking power away from the states again after just a few years with the signing of a new federal law would be something his supporters want.

After the ruling, several states quickly introduced bans on abortion.

However, in many states those laws have been blocked, by governors and lawsuits, sometimes even before they went into effect.

Iowa is a prime example—it passed a six-week ban in 2018, and the law still hasn't been able to take effect.

After years of Iowa's law being tied up in court after court, the Republican legislature passed a second six-week ban bill this summer. The Republican governor has signed an abortion ban twice. The newest iteration of the law was immediately challenged in court and is still subject to a ruling; meanwhile the state currently allows abortion up to around 20 weeks, just before a fetus becomes viable outside of the womb.

 President Donald Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at a Make America Great Again rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Oct. 9, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
President Donald Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at a Make America Great Again rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Oct. 9, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Public Opinion

After the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, a high profile story about a 10-year-old who was raped and traveled across state lines to have an abortion caught the nation's attention.
Americans' views on abortion have entered a gray zone in recent years. The public is increasingly identifying as "pro-choice," but they do not favor unrestricted abortions. Even 9 percent of self identified "pro-choice" voters said they thought abortion was morally wrong, though they believed it should be legal, according to 2023 Gallup data.

Most Americans, and reflected in most abortion ban laws, support exceptions for rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at stake.  The majority—51 percent—favor abortions being legal, but with restrictions, according to a Gallup poll. Only 34 percent of voters said they thought abortion should be legal under all circumstances.

Support dropped when pollsters added timelines to the questions. While 69 percent thought abortion should be legal in the first trimester, only 37 percent said it should be legal in the second trimester, and 22 percent in the third.

Pew Research Center ran similar surveys in 2022, before the Dobbs decision, and found lower support for abortion, with only 19 percent saying it should be legal with no exceptions.

This change in may reflect an unfavorable opinion toward punishments for those who have abortions; the Pew poll found that 50 percent of voters said the women should face penalties, compared to 60 percent saying the provider who performed the abortion should face penalties.

Tudor Dixon, a Republican who ran for and lost the governor's seat in Michigan last year, recently said on a podcast that President Trump gave her advice on abortion policy that she failed to take.

He had told her to “talk differently about abortion” when she took a hardline, no-exceptions approach, and she told President Trump "you were absolutely right" afterward.

Michigan originally had penalties for those providing abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.

Ms. Dixon lost the seat to Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, who was joined by abortion activist groups like Planned Parenthood and Emily's List when she signed a bill repealing the state's abortion laws. She called it "good economics," and has since run ads promoting abortion in her effort to recruit red state residents to move to Michigan and "enjoy your right to reproductive freedom."
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