Candidates Divided on National Abortion Ban at GOP Debate

Dan M. Berger
By Dan M. Berger
August 24, 20232024 Elections
Candidates Divided on National Abortion Ban at GOP Debate
Republican presidential candidates (L-R), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis., on Aug. 23, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Republican candidates debating in Milwaukee all said they’re pro-life. But they differed on whether to go with six-week “heartbeat” limits for abortion or 15-week limits, and whether last year’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade sends the issue back to the states or whether the federal government still plays a role.

The first question went to the only woman on the stage, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley. Noting that she is “unapologetically pro-life,” Ms. Haley said bluntly that pro-life Republicans need to be honest with the people: to pass a national abortion ban, they’ll need 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in Congress.

And “we need to stop demonizing this issue” that is very “personal for every woman and man.”

“So, in order to do that, let’s find consensus,” she suggested. “Can’t we all agree that we should ban late-term abortions? Can’t we all agree that we should encourage adoptions? Can’t we all agree that doctors and nurses who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t have to perform them? Can’t we all agree that contraception should be available? And can’t we all agree that we are not going to put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion?

“Let’s treat this like the respectful issue that it is, and humanize that situation and stop demonizing the situation.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a heartbeat bill this spring and campaigns on supporting pro-life efforts around the country. But he hasn’t committed to signing a national ban, implying he’d leave it to the states and stand behind pro-life governors and legislatures. He refused to let Fox News’s Bret Baier pin him down at the debate.

“Just to be clear, Governor, would you sign a federal ban?”

“I’m going to stand on the side of life,” Mr. DeSantis said. “Look, I understand Wisocnsin is going to do it different than Texas. I understand Iowa and New Hampshire are going to do differently. But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president.”

Candidates brought in the personal impact the issue has on them. Ms. Haley said she was pro-life partly because her husband was adopted, and she had had complicated pregnancies. Meanwhile, Mr. DeSantis talked about hearing the heartbeat of his oldest daughter in his wife’s womb and seeing sonograms of their two younger children.

Former Vice President Mike Pence looked to his Christian conversion and the Biblical passage, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

“And to be honest with you, Nikki,” Mr. Pence said, “You’re my friend, but consensus is the opposite of leadership. When the Supreme Court returned this question to the American people, they didn’t just send it to the states only. It’s not a states-only issue. It’s a moral issue.”

Mr. Pence called for a national standard that an abortion cannot be allowed once a baby can feel pain. “A 15-week ban is an idea whose time has come.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who signed a six-week ban, stood behind the Constitution’s 10th Amendment in opposing a federal abortion ban. The amendment reserves to the states all powers not explicitly allotted to the federal government.

“We need to get back to freedom and liberty for the people in this country,” Mr. Burgum said.

He tagged Republicans who fought for 50 years to return abortion back to the states. “And then the next day, they turn around and go, ‘No, the Feds should do that,'” he said of the Supreme Court decision.

“The Feds are stepping into people’s lives, they’re stepping into people’s businesses over and over. If we say that the Feds should be in on this one, where do we stop?” he argued.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson likewise said that the Supreme Court “gave it back to the elected representatives, whether it’s the states or whether it’s the United States Congress. So there is authority and that’s why President Biden is pushing for a Democrat proposal, which is, in essence, abortion on demand through the term.

“So they have their extreme position at a national level. It is most likely going to be addressed in the states, but it’s certainly fine for it to be addressed at the national level as well,” Mr. Hutchinson said. He told the audience that he had signed 30 pro-life pieces of legislation as governor. “Every state can determine a different outcome here.”

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott disagreed. “We cannot let states like California, New York, and Illinois have abortions on demand up until the day of birth. That is immoral. That is unethical. It is wrong.” He advocated for at minimum a 15-week ban.

“We’re all pro-life,” Ms. Haley said. “But what I would love is for someone to ask [President] Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris, are they for 38 weeks? Are they for 39 weeks? Are they for 40 weeks? Because that’s what the media needs to be asking.”

From The Epoch Times

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