Pro-life Trump is OK with some states protecting abortion rights: Will debate firm up his post-Roe views?

WASHINGTON — The abortion issue is always divisive, and after decades of covering the debate, my analysis has been — until now — that voters on all sides deplore at the most — don’t trust at the least — politicians who are wobbly.

When it comes to abortion, former President Donald Trump is trying to be the exception to that rule.

I’m writing this as we are heading into the two-year anniversary of women in the U.S. losing the federal right to abortion, won in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision handed down on Jan. 22, 1973.

The Supreme Court, fueled by three justices appointed by Trump, overruled Roe on June 24, 2022.

After the fall of Roe, the abortion wars headed to the states, because each state now has the power to decide abortion-related matters. Some states run by Democrats, like Illinois, legally protect the right of a women to make her own decisions when it comes to reproduction. Some states, with Republicans in control, jumped at the chance to ban abortion.

The subject of abortion and reproductive freedoms is going to come up Thursday, when Trump and President Joe Biden face off in their first 2024 debate, in Atlanta, with Georgia a state with abortion bans.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee who says he is pro-life — who brags that he is responsible for overturning Roe — is dodging whether he would sign legislation with a national ban if he were president again. Biden is favor of Congress passing a national law that would codify for the entire nation the abortion rights that women had under Roe.

Trump said Saturday that he was OK with some states allowing abortion and others banning it. Trump delivered the keynote to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” policy conference and strategy briefing at the Washington Hilton.

This is a group of Trump’s base voters, conservatives and evangelical Christians for whom pro-life issues are dear. Founder Ralph Reed, in his welcome letter in the program, applauded the fall of Roe and said his group now is pursuing state-level abortion bans to protect “unborn life.” Reed is not fine with some states allowing abortions. He’s clear on that.

Here’s what Trump said Saturday:

“It’s now up to the will of the people in each state. Some states will be more conservative, other states will be more liberal, and it’s happening now. You see the votes are all taking place,” Trump said, a reference to the more than 20 states imposing abortion bans or restrictions since 2022, with more in the works.

Trump has flip-flopped on abortion through the years, with his moral compass set to expediency.

With polls showing voters supportive of abortion rights, Trump is vulnerable on that front. Abortion is one of the issues where Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are strongest. The Biden team has a plethora of abortion rights events planned for Monday.

Abortion plays to a coveted group of potential swing voters in battleground states: suburban women who back abortion rights.

Trump escapes punishment — even pressure — from his pro-life voters as he dodges what he wants the states to do or if he would back a national ban if it reached his desk.

At the same time, Biden must meet a perfection standard.

Some Democrats, unhappy with how Biden is handling certain issues — especially the Israel-Hamas war — are considering sitting out the election or throwing away their vote by going with a third party pick.

Biden has been dealing with this for years. He often says, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” And that alternative is Trump.

Let’s see if the wobbly Trump can be pinned down on abortion and related issues — in vitro fertilization, contraceptives, abortion pills, his views on what states should do — at the Thursday debate.

Pro-lifers are not holding Trump’s feet to the fire. I didn’t see at the Saturday conference any group lobbying or petitioning Trump to support a national abortion ban. Or pressing Trump for an abortion ban plank to be included in the Republican platform. Or getting him to commit to whether he would sign — or veto — a national abortion ban bill — if he were president and that legislation landed on his desk.

There is no Almighty on the ballot. Just Trump and Biden.

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