Donald Trump calls six-week abortion bans ‘terrible’

Former president Donald Trump, the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary, said a state abortion law signed by his top challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which bans the procedure after six weeks, is “terrible.”

In April, DeSantis signed the controversial law, which will go into effect if the Florida Supreme Court upholds the state’s 15-week ban on abortion that he signed into law last spring. At a hearing this month, the Florida justices appeared open to upholding the limiting ban.

Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” criticized DeSantis for being “willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban.”

“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” Trump said.

DeSantis’s six-week ban — which includes exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergencies and “fatal fetal abnormalities” — would outlaw the procedure in Florida before many people know they’re pregnant.

The new host of “Meet the Press,” Kristen Welker, asked Trump if he’d sign federal legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks, a limit that antiabortion groups and some lawmakers have rallied behind.

Trump said no, and said he’d seek to negotiate with Democrats on the issue.

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Trump declined to say what time frame he thinks is appropriate for an abortion ban and instead insisted that he would “sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something, and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”

“Both sides are going to like me,” he added. “I’m going to come together with all groups, and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable.”

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Trump called Democrats “radicals” for supporting abortions later in pregnancy. Republicans have long criticized those who support abortions after fetal viability, but such procedures after 24 weeks of gestation are extremely rare and often occur because the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus would not survive after delivery.

Most people undergo abortions earlier in pregnancy; 15-week and 20-week abortion bans disproportionately affect patients with fetal anomalies, which are often detected at a 20-week anatomy scan, along with those who take longer to realize they are pregnant.

DeSantis signed the six-week ban with little fanfare this spring, but has talked more about abortion in recent months — even as some Republicans worry DeSantis has gone too far to the right on an issue that could hurt them in the general election.

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DeSantis is running a distant second from the former president and is continuing to struggle to gain ground. A new national poll from Quinnipiac University found Trump leading DeSantis by 50 percentage points.

DeSantis is campaigning especially heavily in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation GOP caucus state, where Republicans also passed a six-week ban. DeSantis also knocked Trump for his past criticism of Florida’s six-week ban, now more explicit. DeSantis is seeking to appeal to the conservative evangelical voters especially influential in Iowa and highlighted his abortion policies there this weekend.

Still, the Florida governor declined to endorse the national 15-week abortion ban some rivals have backed, underscoring how politically fraught the issue remains for Republicans. Pressed on abortion at a Saturday dinner held by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, DeSantis focused on how the government could better support parents.

The party’s divisions on abortion were on full display at the dinner, a 2024 cattle call event that Trump skipped. Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, who signed a near-total abortion ban in his state, ridiculed the suggestion from a candidate “not here tonight” that “I’m going to make both sides happy on this issue.”

“You wouldn’t be talking about Donald Trump, would you?” asked the moderator, Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed.

Former vice president Mike Pence later reiterated his calls for a 15-week national abortion ban, while former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said such federal legislation is politically impractical, given the lack of support in Congress.

“You go and you put this ban of 15 weeks and what does it do?” Haley asked at the dinner. “It has everybody running from us. What about if we got people running to us? Whatever we can get 60 Senate votes on — isn’t that better than what we have now?”

Trump regularly reminds voters that during his presidency he appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court who later voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The former president, however, has shied away from voicing support for a 15-week abortion ban, angering key antiabortion groups.

In April, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America criticized Trump after his campaign said he agreed with the Supreme Court when it said, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade, that abortion is an “issue that should be decided at the state level.”

“President Trump’s assertion that the Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion solely to the states is a completely inaccurate reading of the Dobbs decision and is a morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate to hold,” the group said then.

In the interview that aired Sunday, Welker asked again Trump if he would support a federal ban on abortions.

“It could be state or it could be federal, I don’t frankly care,” he said.

After the Trump interview aired, DeSantis’s team latched onto the former president’s promise to compromise with Democrats on abortion.

“He says it’s a ‘terrible thing’ babies with heartbeats are protected in Iowa, Florida and South Carolina,” DeSantis’s campaign tweeted. “[DeSantis] will NEVER sell out conservatives to win praise from corporate media or the Left.”

Aaron Blake contributed to this report.

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