Where 2024 presidential candidates stand on abortion bans

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has been short on specifics about abortion but has spoken about there needing to be a “constructive conversation about where we go from here in our divided country.” (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
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There may be no more consequential issue than abortion rights in the 2024 campaign for the White House. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the subject has become a lightning rod at the ballot box for both Republicans and Democrats.

Abortion rights are already taking center stage in the GOP primary fight for president, with current and likely candidates staking out positions they hope will be embraced by the conservative primary electorate but may alienate swing voters. Democrats are campaigning energetically on the issue, trying to further capitalize on the blowback the Supreme Court’s decision has had in red states and nationally, including on limiting medication used to terminate pregnancies. Meanwhile, President Biden has become an unlikely champion for the cause after years of conflicting views on the issue that pit his devout Catholicism against his views of his political party.

The issue is especially charged for Republicans, many of whom have struggled to articulate a clear plan for where the abortion debate goes now. Those who are running for president or have indicated an interest in the 2024 race all consider themselves to be against abortion rights, but many have avoided pinpointing exactly what they believe abortion laws in the country should be.

Abortion divides 2024 candidates and confounds many within the GOP

A major sticking point is whether abortion should be illegal after a certain gestational point in pregnancy — 20 weeks, 15 weeks, six weeks — and whether that ban should be national law. Many Republicans will not specify whether those laws should include exceptions in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s life.

Republicans have also been largely silent on whether they supported a Texas judge’s ruling in early April to invalidate the federal government’s approval of a drug used in more than 50 percent of abortions.

Here is what we know about where President Biden and the eight Republicans who are either running for president or look as if they will be, stand on abortion laws based on their public statements and legislative record.

Joe Biden

President Biden has strongly rebuked efforts to restrict abortion care access, calling the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision an “exercise in raw political power” and urging Congress to pass a national law codifying abortion rights. Biden also pledged that his administration would challenge the Texas judge’s ruling against the abortion drug, mifepristone, calling it “the next big step” toward the national ban on abortion that Republican elected officials have vowed to make law in America.”

As Delaware’s longtime Democratic senator, Biden toed a delicate line on abortion, which he was opposed to personally but still believed should be a woman’s choice. He had long supported the Hyde Amendment, which made it illegal to use federal funding for abortions. But he changed his position on that during the 2020 presidential campaign, saying, “circumstances have changed,” referring to Republican state officials’ efforts to outlaw abortion.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump, the 45th president, who is running to reclaim the White House, is responsible for appointing three antiabortion judges to the Supreme Court leading to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Since that monumental decision, Trump has not been outspoken about other abortion restrictions. His campaign spokesman, Stephen Cheung, told The Washington Post that Trump believes the Supreme Court got it right by ruling that individual states should determine whether abortion is legal or not.

But Trump suggested recently he’d be open to a national ban, telling a Manchester, N.H., television station he’s “looking at a lot of different options” when asked if he would support a 15-week national ban proposed by his ally, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

“We’ll get something done where everyone is going to be very satisfied,” he told ABC News’ WMUR at the end of April. “I think we’ll get it done on some level, it could be on different levels, but we’re going to get it done. I know the issue very well. I think I know the issue better than most and we will get that taken care of.”

The Texas federal judge who ruled against the abortion drug was also appointed by Trump, but the former president has not weighed in on whether he agrees with U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk ’s decision.

In a December 2022 interview with Breitbart News, Trump blamed Republican losses in the 2022 midterms on candidates’ staking out extreme abortion stances and said Republicans should allow exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. “I think if you don’t have the three exceptions, it’s almost impossible in most parts of the country to win,” Trump said.

Trump has generally dodged reporters’ questions about whether he’d support a federal abortion ban. When pressed, he instead gave himself credit for the overturning of Roe. His refusal to take a firm stance has irked some on the far right. In response to that criticism, Trump again heralded himself as the hero of the antiabortion movement.

“After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the “shock” of everyone, and for the first time put the Pro Life movement in a strong negotiating position over the Radicals that are willing to kill babies even into their 9th month, and beyond,” he wrote on Truth Social. “Without me there would be no 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to. Without me the pro Life movement would have just kept losing. Thank you President TRUMP!!!”

Before running for president, Trump had been supportive of abortion rights, calling himself “very pro-choice” in 1999.

Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. DeSantis, who is not yet in the race for president, recently signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, banning the medical procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant. He has not said whether he believes that law should be applied nationally. The law allows for exceptions for rape and incest up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, but requires the woman to have official documentation of the crime. The law also includes exceptions to save a woman’s life, but two doctors have to say that an abortion is necessary. In a news conference in March, DeSantis called the exceptions “sensible.”

The law also placed limitations on drug-induced abortions, making it illegal to receive the medicine via a telehealth appointment and by mail. DeSantis has not weighed in on whether he supports Kacsmaryk ’s decision to invalidate the FDA approval of mifepristone.

Drugs used in medication-induced abortions — which make up the majority of those provided nationally — could be dispensed only in person or by a physician under the Florida law.

How DeSantis backed a six-week abortion ban — while barely talking about it

As a member of Congress, DeSantis voted for bills banning abortion after 20 weeks but never joined more than 170 House Republicans who signed on to a federal six-week ban in 2017 and 2018.

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ex-Trump ambassador to the United Nations, has been short on specifics about abortion laws. In a campaign speech about abortion in late April, Haley spoke vaguely about there needing to be a “constructive conversation about where we go from here in our divided country” and said she wouldn’t answer questions about at how many weeks an abortion should be permitted or what exceptions should be allowed.

As governor, Haley signed a bill in 2016 banning most abortions at 20 weeks. The bill did not provide exceptions for rape or incest but did allow an exception to protect the life of the mother. As a presidential candidate, she has been noncommittal as to whether she’d support a national abortion ban, but said it would be challenging to get one passed through Congress.

Mike Pence

Former vice president Mike Pence has long been a fervent advocate of antiabortion efforts and has said he wants to see the procedure outlawed in every state. During a recent speech in Iowa, Pence sought to distinguish his position from that of his former boss, saying he didn’t agree with Trump that it was a “states-only issue” and would support a national ban on all abortions.

“I think we have an opportunity to advance the sanctity of life, move it ever closer to the center of American law,” Pence said.

As an Indiana congressman, Pence co-sponsored “personhood” legislation that would consider life as beginning at the moment of conception and then use the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which says no law should “deprive any person of life,” to criminalize all abortions. He also supported legislation that would allow hospitals with religious opposition to abortion to deny women the procedure even in situations where the mother’s life is at risk.

Pence was also the only likely Republican presidential hopeful who publicly praised Kacsmaryk ’s decision on the abortion drug, saying, “Life won again today.” He told CBS News he would like to “see this medication off the market to protect the unborn.”

Vivek Ramaswamy

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy has said he supports a six-week abortion ban at the state level, but said in an interview with Fox News that it was “not an answer for the president, because I think the federal government should be out of this.” He has also said he supported exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Asa Hutchinson

Asa Hutchinson, former governor of Arkansas, has said he would back a national 15-week abortion ban, but that such a law should allow exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother and that he prefers the issue be taken up state-by-state.

As governor, he signed a near-total abortion ban that had no exceptions for rape or incest but did provide them if a woman’s life is in jeopardy. The law went into effect after Roe was struck down.

Asked about the Texas judge’s decision to revoke authorization of a major abortion drug, Hutchinson said, “we should always be deferring to science and make the best decisions on health care based on professional judgments,” according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch. He also said he believes the issue will decided on a state-by-state basis.

Tim Scott

During his time in Congress, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott co-sponsored federal legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks and has also supported bills declaring that life begins at conception, using the 14th Amendment to effectively outlaw all abortions. But he did not sign on to a 15-week national ban proposed by Graham, his South Carolina colleague.

He has waffled when asked to answer specific questions about abortion restrictions. He said he supported a six-week ban at the state level. Asked if he’d support it federally, he said, “If I were president of the United States, I would literally sign the most conservative pro-life legislation that they can get through Congress,” which suggests he would support an abortion ban without exceptions. Pressed to clarify at what week he’d support a federal ban, Scott said, “I’m not going to talk about six or five or seven or 10.”

He has also committed to signing a 15-week national ban if he is elected president.

He has declined to take a stance on whether abortion medication should be legal, telling reporters that “the courts are on their way to solving the problem.”

Chris Christie

Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and 2016 presidential candidate, is against abortion rights, but has staked out a more moderate stance compared with other GOP candidates.

“I’ve always been pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,” Christie said in an emailed statement to The Post. “I believe these are decisions that should be made by governors, state legislatures and their citizens at the state level. The states, not the federal government, should be making these decisions.”

Dylan Wells contributed to this report.

2024 presidential candidates

Several major Republican candidates and three Democrats have officially declared they are running for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination, and plenty of others are making moves. We’re tracking 2024 presidential candidates here.

Republicans: Top contenders for the GOP 2024 nomination include former president Donald Trump, who announced in November, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Republican presidential candidates for 2024.

Democrats: President Biden has officially announced he is running for reelection in 2024. Author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine advocate Robert Kennedy Jr., both long-shot candidates, are also seeking the Democratic nomination. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates for 2024.