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Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition Policy Conference in Washington, Friday, June 23, 2023. (AP) Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition Policy Conference in Washington, Friday, June 23, 2023. (AP)

Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition Policy Conference in Washington, Friday, June 23, 2023. (AP)

Sevana Wenn
By Sevana Wenn July 6, 2023

If Your Time is short

  • Though Republican presidential candidates are all broadly anti-abortion, they vary on the question of whether there should be a federal ban. Some say the decision over abortion rights should be left to the states. 

  • Some candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence, support a federal ban.

  • Former President Donald Trump, and others, have been less clear on the topic or have opposed the idea of a federal ban.

In an increasingly crowded presidential field, all of the 2024 GOP candidates have so far said they are against unrestricted abortion. But they haven’t agreed on whether there should be a national ban. 

During the June 23 Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, on the eve of the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end federally protected abortion access, some of the candidates clarified their policy positions on abortion. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence called for a federal abortion ban and urged his fellow Republican presidential candidates to stand with him and set a "minimum nationwide standard" of banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

"A 15-week ban at the national level would create a minimum standard that would align us with much of the west and then the work would continue," he said. 

Three other candidates have clearly said they’d support a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks into a pregnancy: former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Former Texas Rep. Will Hurd has twice voted for a bill that would institute a federal ban at 20 weeks, but has not committed to supporting the 15-week ban.

Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis haven’t clearly stated their positions. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has questioned the feasibility of a federal ban, and has advocated for national-level legislation on other abortion-related issues for which there is more public consensus. 

And four candidates, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, radio host Larry Elder and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, have said they would leave that decision to state legislatures.

Republican political strategist John Feehery said that some candidates haven’t backed a federal ban "mostly because they don’t think it will get through Congress." 

Mary Ziegler, a University of California, Davis Law School professor who studies the politics of reproductive health care, said that taking a position on a national ban can be politically challenging. Public opinion on abortion is historically mixed, with Americans showing some support for abortion in certain circumstances. But since the Supreme Court’s decision, abortion-rights support is slightly outpacing anti-abortion sentiment. 

"On the one hand, I think they know that most voters don't want a ban, probably even at 15 weeks, much less earlier in pregnancy," Ziegler said of GOP candidates. "But at the same time, they know that large segments of the base, as well as key donors and social movements, expect them to be in favor not just of a ban at 15 weeks, but much more than that. So whatever they say risks alienating someone."

It’s early in the campaign, but here’s a rundown of what the GOP candidates have said about abortion so far. 

Support a federal ban:

Former Vice President Mike Pence 

Pence has staunchly opposed abortion throughout his political career. At the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, he supported a federal ban. Pence claimed that a 15-week ban would align U.S. policies with the rest of the western world.

"We must not rest and we must not relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state in this country," he said.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

At the same conference, Hutchinson touted his pro-life record as Arkansas governor, saying it was an "honor to sign over 30 pro-life bills" while in office. He said he would support a federal ban if elected. 

"As president, I would fight to make sure taxpayers’ funds are not used to support abortion," he said. "And if Congress acts, I will sign a federal law to restrict abortion." 

In an April interview with "Fox News Sunday" host Shannon Bream, Hutchinson specifically backed a 15-week national ban but expressed that he would have liked that decision to remain in the states’ hands. He said he arrived at his position favoring a national ban in response to what he perceived as pressure from Democrats to "push for a national standard that overrules the states."

"Obviously, there's going to be more pressure on the Republican side and on the life side, to put in those reasonable restrictions," he said.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott

After hedging reporters’ questions on abortion in April, Scott published an opinion piece in the Des Moines Register on June 23 that more strongly affirmed his commitment to a 15-week federal ban. "I am 100% pro-life. When I am president of the United States, I will sign the most pro-life legislation the House and Senate can put on my desk. We should begin with a 15-week national limit," he wrote. 

Scott previously co-signed legislation that would define the beginning of life at conception, and has supported a 20-week abortion ban. 

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

Suarez has backed a national ban. He said in a June interview with The Associated Press that a 15-week ban has popular support when there are exceptions for the life of the mother and rape and incest. "If there was that kind of federal law, that’s one that I would support as president," he said.

The Miami mayor has criticized DeSantis’ more restrictive six-week ban, saying that "the country is not there yet."

Do not support a federal ban:

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy

Ramaswamy has called himself "unapologetically pro-life." In an April Fox News interview, he voiced support for a six-week ban at the state level with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. 

However, he said in the interview that he would not support a federal abortion ban. Ramaswamy said he views abortion as murder, and that because murder statutes are constructed at the state level, abortion law should be as well. "Because I view abortion as a form of murder, because I believe in the Constitution, because I believe Roe was wrongly decided, this is an issue for the states. But I also think that’s why states should adopt a pro-life stance," he said. 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

At a live discussion in June hosted by Semafor, a global news platform, Christie said abortion should be decided by the states. "This should be determined by the 50 states," he said. "The issue of abortion’s not in the Constitution. And the Constitution says if it’s not explicitly said here, this power reverts to the states." Christie has also said he opposes "the federal government being involved in the issue of abortion in any way. I believe the states should make the decisions" and that he supports exceptions in abortion bans for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life.

At the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, Christie called himself an "unabashedly pro-life Republican."

Radio host Larry Elder

The conservative radio show host says he opposes abortion, but that decisions on the issue should be made at the state level. In an opinion piece published in The Joplin Globe shortly after Roe was overturned, Elder wrote that, "The Supreme Court should never have federalized the issue of abortion and has now properly returned it to the people and to the states."

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum

As North Dakota governor, Burgum in April effectively outlawed abortion in his state by signing a six-week ban. The legislation allows abortion during the first six weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and incest. After that point, all abortions are prohibited unless a pregnancy presents serious health complications to the mother.

Burgum in June told Forbes that abortion-related laws should be left to the states. He said he would not sign a federal abortion ban.

Unclear whether they would support a federal ban:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

The "Heartbeat Bill," which DeSantis signed into law this April, is among the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion legislation. It carves out certain exceptions, permitting abortion for up to 15 weeks to save the mother’s life and in cases of rape and incest. In those instances, a woman would need to provide documentation such as a doctor’s note or a police report. The legislation will go into effect only if Florida’s 15-week ban, which faces legal challenges, is approved by courts.

At the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, DeSantis vowed to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that determined abortion was federally protected. He said he would "stand and defend them against scurrilous attacks that you’re seeing in the media and by left-wing groups." DeSantis didn’t indicate support for a federal ban. 

A DeSantis spokesperson directed us to a May 24 Fox News interview, in which he said that the 2022 Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe "returned the issue to the elected representatives of the people. And so I think that there's a role for both the federal and the states." 

Former President Donald Trump

Trump, who described himself in 1999 and 2000 as "pro-choice," has adopted an anti-abortion stance in recent years. As a 2024 presidential candidate, he has generally opposed abortion rights, but has supported exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. He hasn’t made clear his position on a federal ban. PolitiFact reached out to Trump’s team to clarify, but received no response.

At the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, Trump touted his having nominated three Supreme Court Justices who overturned Roe.

"I got it done and nobody thought it was even a possibility," Trump said, later adding, "There of course remains a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life."

Trump has also endorsed state-level policy decisions. Speaking about the Supreme Court’s decision, he said, "That’s one of the reasons they wanted Roe v. Wade terminated, is to bring it back to the states, where a lot of people feel strongly it should be, and where legal scholars feel very strongly it should be."

In a Jan. 1 Truth Social post, Trump blamed the GOP’s handling of abortion issues for Republican losses in the 2022 midterm election. "It wasn’t my fault Republicans did not live up to expectations in the MidTerm," he wrote. "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."

In May, Trump also criticized DeSantis’ six-week ban, calling it "too harsh."

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

As South Carolina governor, Haley in 2016 signed a 20-week abortion ban into law. The only exceptions were for the life of the mother or if a doctor determined that the fetus would not survive outside the womb. 

However, she’s called the idea of a federal abortion ban "not realistic" considering the divided state of the current Congress. In a May 14 interview with CBS News, when she was asked whether she’d support making her 20-week ban a nationwide standard, she said, "The idea that a Republican president could ban all abortions is not being honest with the American people, any more than a Democrat president could ban these pro-life laws in the states. So, let’s be honest with the American people and say, ‘Let’s find national consensus. Let’s agree on getting rid of late term abortions.’" 

A Haley spokesperson reiterated that she supports federal-level abortion legislation in areas of broad public consensus, such as banning abortions later in pregnancy, offering more information and support to pregnant women and not punishing women who receive abortions.  

When asked at a May 24 campaign event whether she’d sign a national ban into law, Haley referenced support for that in the Senate, "If there’s 60 votes — which, we’re not anywhere near that — and there’s something where they’ve come together on consensus, yes, of course I would sign it. Because that’s 60 votes out of 100 saying, this is what America wants. But we’re at 45, so we’re not anywhere close."

Former Texas Rep. Will Hurd

The former Congressman, a moderate Republican, supported anti-abortion legislation during his time in office, but has not yet taken a position on a national ban. His team did not respond to a request to confirm his stance.

In 2015 and 2017, Hurd voted for H.R. 36, titled the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," which would ban abortion nationwide after 20 weeks. The legislation included exceptions for the life of the mother, "excluding psychological or emotional conditions," and documented cases of rape and incest.

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Our Sources

C-SPAN, "2024 Presidential Candidates & Other Republicans Speak at Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference," June 23, 2023

POLITICO, "Tim Scott gets tripped up on abortion ban questions," April 13, 2023

Tim Scott, "A year after Dobbs, there’s more work to do for life," June 23, 2023, "S.99 - Life at Conception Act 2021," January 28, 2021 

Associated Press, "DeSantis signs 6-week abortion ban in closed-door ceremony," April 14, 2023 

Donald Trump, Truth Social post, January 1, 2023

CBS News, "Transcript: Nikki Haley on "Face the Nation," May 14, 2023," May 14, 2023

Washington Examiner, "Ramaswamy signals support for six-week abortion ban at state level," April 26, 2023

Semafor, "Chris Christie on Trump, abortion bans, and making 2024 interesting," April 18, 2023

Associated Press, "Haley commits to federal abortion ban but says it’s unlikely without more Republicans in Congress," May 24, 2023

CBS News, "S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley signs 20-week abortion ban," May 25, 2016

Email interview with Lindsey Curnette, spokesperson for Ron DeSantis, June 28, 2023

Fox News, "Ron DeSantis: FBI and DOJ have been weaponized against Americans," May 24, 2023

Email interview with Ken Farnaso, spokesperson for Nikki Haley, June 28, 2023

Email interview with Lindsey Curnette, spokesperson for Ron DeSantis, June 28, 2023

Email interview with John Feehery, political strategist, June 28, 2023 

Phone interview with Mary Ziegler, professor at UC Davis School of Law, June 28, 2023

PolitiFact, "Public opinion on abortion: what’s changed since Roe v. Wade was overturned?," April 24, 2023

The Joplin Globe, "Larry Elder: Abortion properly returned to the states," June 30, 2023

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, "Roll Call 223 | Bill Number: H.R. 36," May 13, 2015

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, "Roll Call 549 | Bill Number: H.R. 36," October 3, 2017

Forbes, "2024 Republican Presidential Candidate Doug Burgum Vows Not To Sign Federal Abortion Ban If Elected," June 27, 2023

Associated Press, "Suarez backs 15-week federal abortion ban, says he has ‘credibility’ on immigration conversation," June 15, 2023

PolitiFact, "Are US abortion laws really more like China and North Korea than Europe? No," July 5, 2023

Fox News, "‘Fox News Sunday’ on April 23, 2023," April 27, 2023

PolitiFact, "Fiorina: Trump’s abortion flip-flop," August 11, 2015

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