Trump brags about role in overturning Roe v. Wade but urges GOP caution on abortion

Former President Donald Trump boasted about his role in overturning the constitutional right to an abortion Wednesday night, calling it “a miracle,” but urged fellow Republicans to take a cautious approach when addressing the issue. 

Trump was participating in a Fox News town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, at the same time Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ex-U.S. U.N. Ambassador, were holding the last Republican debate before Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

Former President and 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on night of Jan. 10, 2024.


Trump nominated three of the Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution generally protected the right of women to have abortions.

When asked by an abortion rights opponent at the town hall to clarify his position and reassure her that he wants to “protect all life without compromise,” Trump replied, “Nobody has done more in that regard. (But) I happen to be for the exceptions like Ronald Reagan, with the life of the mother, rape, incest. I just have to be there, I feel.” 

The former president went on to tell Republicans that they have to find a consensus on the issue in order to “win elections.” 

“Otherwise you are going to be back where you were and you can’t let that ever happen again,” Trump said. 

Trump conceded that most women don’t recognize they are pregnant after six weeks of pregnancy, the time limit at which some GOP-controlled states have sought to ban the procedure, and blamed DeSantis’ position on the issue for his low poll numbers. DeSantis signed a bill into law in April with the six-week ban.

The caution from Trump comes just days ahead of the Iowa caucuses and follows his previous reluctance to express a concise stand on the issue.

Abortion has increasingly come up on the campaign trail in Iowa as Republican voters express concern that it could be a losing issue in the general election.

A CBS News poll released in November showed that 57% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Efforts to restrict the procedure have failed in elections in several states.

“I think the issue of abortion is one of the main drivers for young people to vote Democratic,” said Teresa Probst, a 72-year-old Republican in Iowa, adding that the GOP is avoiding the issue and needs to address exceptions to abortion bans. 

Probst said she is an abortion rights opponent but supports exceptions because her daughter had to have an abortion due to a complication during a pregnancy.

The Biden-Harris campaign has already expressed its intention to tie abortion bans in numerous states to Trump’s presidential legacy. 

A December 2023 report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, said “Fourteen states enforce total bans and seven more restrict access under limits that would have been unconstitutional under Roe.”

“As Trump proudly brags he was the one who got rid of Roe v. Wade, paving the way for Republican extremists across the country to pass draconian bans that are hurting women and threatening doctors … one-in-three women of reproductive age now live under an abortion ban,” Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said during a call with reporters on Wednesday.

Abortion was also brought up during the DeSantis-Haley debate.

Haley called on Republicans to stop demonizing abortion, saying, “The Democrats put fear in women on abortion and Republicans have used judgment. This is too personal of an issue to put fear or judgment. Our goal should be how do we save as many babies as possible and support as many moms as possible.”

DeSantis has borne the brunt of criticism from Trump over Florida’s six-week abortion ban, which the former president has deemed a “terrible thing.”

And the former and current governor have both said they would sign a nationwide ban into law should they be elected president, though Haley usually provides a caveat, saying it is unlikely any such legislation would make it through Congress.

Trump also revealed in the town hall that he has decided on a running mate.

“I can’t tell you that, really. I mean, I know who it’s going to be,” Trump said.

When asked if he would consider mending fences and choosing an opponent such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who dropped out of the presidential primary Wednesday, Trump said he didn’t see it.

“That would be an upset – Christie for vice president,” Trump remarked.

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