Pro-life groups indicated they plan to seek commitments from 2024 Republican presidential contenders on their positions on abortion in what will be the first presidential election cycle since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its Roe v. Wade decision.
A report by the Washington Post said Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America is likely to insist GOP presidential candidates sign a pledge stating that they will back federal legislation banning abortion at a minimum 15 weeks of pregnancy. Students for Life Action is likewise developing a survey in which the group plans to ask GOP presidential candidates for their positions on an array of issues, from whether their potential cabinet nominees would oppose abortion to the types of legislation candidates would support.
“The pro-life vote must be won, and our polling shows that the majority of Americans, even young Americans, don’t want abortion for any reason through all nine months, which is what Roe stood for,” Students for Life Action President Kristan Hawkins told OSV News.
“Rather, the expectation from our pro-life generation base is to not have a defeated spirit and accept the bare minimum protections for the preborn,” she said, “but to take every chance possible to ensure life is protected from the moment of conception to natural death.”
The Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned its previous rulings in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992) that had found abortion access to be a constitutional right, and effectively returned the matter of restricting or permitting abortion to the states.
However, in the months that followed the Dobbs ruling, voters in Kansas, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont either rejected adding new limitations on abortion or approved adding legal protections for the procedure.
Additionally, in the Nov. 2022 midterm elections — an election cycle generally seen as a referendum on the incumbent U.S. president — Republicans underperformed some analyst expectations of a “red wave” in Congress due to President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings over inflation. But Republicans failed to win control of the Senate and won only a slim House majority.
Some analysts pointed to former President Donald Trump’s ongoing national presence making him a sort of quasi-incumbent, and candidate quality issues with Republican candidates in crucial contests, as factors in Republican’s relatively poor showing at the polls.
However, Trump sought to pin the blame for the Republican Party’s underperformance in the 2022 midterm election cycle on pro-life voters, prompting criticism from even some of his supporters. In a Jan. 1 Truth Social post, Trump claimed “it was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters.”
“Our hope is that if nominated, President Trump would unequivocally commit to protecting the most vulnerable in our society and stop listening to his swamp-like consultants to blame pro-life groups as a scapegoat for the 2022 elections,” Hawkins said.
SBA did not immediately respond to an inquiry from OSV News seeking clarification on whether they would ultimately back a Republican nominee who did not pledge to support a 15-week federal limit pledge in the general election. They instead pointed to a Nov. 15, 2022 issued by the group arguing the eventual Republican nominee must back “minimum national protections for the unborn.”
Trump’s only major Republican rival who is formally running for president is former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Others, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Vice President Mike Pence, are seen as likely contenders.
Although the declared and likely GOP contenders have run current or previous campaigns as opponents of abortion to varying degrees, it is not yet clear if they would specifically embrace a 15-week federal abortion limit as their primary campaigns progress.
Hawkins, however, said her organization wanted to press even further for a “pledge to protect children with detectable beating hearts at six weeks or before.”
“While 15 weeks is a standard set by some in the pro-life movement, Students for Life Action believes if you’re not addressing early term abortion, abortions in the first trimester, you’re not addressing abortion at all,” she said.
Asked whether her organization would like to see commitments on safety net items for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies, Hawkins told OSV News, “we also support a myriad of policies to lower the cost of adoption, increase family leave, support pregnancy resource centers, and other actions to ensure families are supported before and after pregnancy.”