Trump said politicians “don’t know how to talk about it” and cautioned that “if they don’t speak about it correctly, they’re not going to win.”
Trump’s warning to two influential anti-abortion groups comes one year after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and as the issue continues to divide the Republican Party over just how far candidates should go in advocating for abortion restrictions. Some GOP leaders — including Trump — have expressed concerns that hardline anti-abortion policies and muddled Republican messaging on abortion was politically costly in the 2022 midterms.
Trump, who has called himself the “most pro-life” president in history and often touts his role in appointing the three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, has been reluctant to offer specifics on where he stands although he has been clear he believes some Republican positions on abortion have been “too harsh.”
Trump has so far resisted pressure from anti-abortion leaders to embrace a federal abortion ban but said on Friday night that conservatives now have the power to “negotiate” at the state level. He also emphasized his support for exceptions to abortion bans in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
In both speeches, Trump ticked through his conservative record in the White House, including moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and reinstating the Mexico City Policy, which blocks U.S. federal funds from being used for abortions and was revoked by President Joe Biden.
“Donald Trump didn’t just deliver, he exceeded expectations, and he taught us not to accept less than what we’ve been promised,” said Penny Nance, the chief executive of Concerned Women for America.
Trump’s appearance at the events in Washington underscores the influence evangelical conservative Christian voters have on the Republican nominating process, especially in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. Trump travels to Eastern Iowa on Wednesday to meet with volunteers and deliver a speech to supporters.
The former president continues to dominate national Republican primary polls and currently holds a double-digit lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also appeared at both events Friday.
DeSantis signed into law a six-week abortion ban, but has not said he would support federal restrictions. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has taken a more moderate approach and has called for “consensus” on the issue. Meanwhile South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former vice president Mike Pence have both called for Republican candidates to embrace a 15-week federal abortion ban.
Pence told reporters on Friday at the Family Research Council event he believed Republicans, including Trump, “are trying to marginalize the cause of life.”
“The fact that the former president has not only refused to endorse a 15-week national law that would ban or limit abortion after a child was able to experience pain, but also the fact that he actually blamed election losses in 2022 on us overturning Roe v. Wade — that sends a signal to pro-life Americans about the priority he’ll put on the cause of life should you return him to the White House,” Pence told reporters.
According to polling, a majority of Americans support abortion until at least six weeks into a pregnancy.