Republicans change their stance on abortion at Trump’s request

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Republican National Committee on Monday introduced a proposal to adopt a party platform that mirrors former President Donald Trump’s position on opposing a federal abortion ban and delegating restrictions to the states, omitting the explicit basis for a national ban for the first time in 40 years.

Trump imposed his priorities on the RNC platform committee, while he sought to avoid strict abortion language during his campaign, while also taking credit for engineering the Supreme Court’s 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade. Trump appointed three of the six justices who voted in the majority to overturn the 1973 precedent that established a nationwide right to abortion.

The slimmed-down platform — just 16 pages and with limited detail on many key Republican issues — reflects a desire by the Trump campaign to avoid giving Democrats more material for their warnings about the former president’s intentions if he wins back the White House. President Joe Biden’s campaign has repeatedly emphasizes the document “Project 2025” produced by Trump allies and Trump’s own promises to impose steep tariffs, replace thousands of government workers with party loyalists, and organize the largest deportation operation in U.S. history.

The policy document maintains the party’s long-standing principle that the Constitution extends rights to fetuses, but removes language maintaining support for an “amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment apply to children before birth,” a passage in the party platform first included in 1984.

It states: “We believe that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law.” The document also noted “that the states are therefore free to enact laws protecting these rights.”

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The abortion language was first reported by The New York Times.

Abortion advocates who had criticized the Trump campaign’s efforts leading up to the platform committee meeting largely joined them on Monday.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, praised the committee for reaffirming “its commitment to protecting unborn life through the 14th Amendment.”

Dannenfelser disagreed with the document’s reflection of Trump’s view that the issue is entirely up to the states. Under the 14th Amendment, “Congress shall make and enforce its provisions.”

The platform committee started meeting on Monday, a week before the start of the Republican National Convention in Wisconsin, where Trump is expected to accept his third consecutive nomination for president.

The platform is a statement of first principles traditionally written by party activists. In 2016, the platform included an endorsement of a 20-week nationwide ban. Trump had supported federal legislation in 2018 that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, though the measure failed to gain the necessary support in the Senate.

Trump has had to deal with this year months of Democratic criticism over abortion Biden’s re-election campaign has shown that Trump has nominated half of the Supreme Court majority that would have abolished the right to abortion nationwide in 2022.

To promote the platform document, the campaign published a statement highlighting 20 topics that would be addressed, including immigration, economy, energy, taxes and crime. However, no reference was made to abortion in the topic titles.

Among the outspoken anti-abortionists on the platform committee, some argue that pushing for a federal ban on abortion after a certain stage of pregnancy should remain a party principle, even if it is not an immediately feasible policy or one that would necessarily benefit Trump’s campaign in November.

“I see that as problematic. We still need to have these principles clearly articulated. Some of these fights are not over,” said Iowa Rep. Brad Sherman, a member of the platform committee who backed Trump’s winning Iowa caucus campaign in January and also supports a federal limit on abortion.

Conservative activists who were used to sitting at the table were furious beforehand about what they said was a secretive process for selecting committee members and the fact that the meeting took place behind closed doors.

“For four decades, the Republican Party and the GOP platform have benefited tremendously from an open and transparent process,” said Tim Chapman, the new chairman of Advancing American Freedom, a foundation headed by Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump’s campaign has tried to turn the Republican National Committee into a campaign vessel. A memo last month from senior campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles noted that “textbook programs … are being scrutinized and deliberately misrepresented by our political opponents.”

Trump ally Russ Vought is the policy director of the Republican Party’s platform writing committee, while he also leading the effort to develop the 180-day agenda for Project 2025, a comprehensive government reform proposal that Trump said Friday he “knew nothing about” despite the involvement of several former employees.

After the 2022 midterm elections, Trump blamed Republicans who had strict anti-abortion views for the party’s failure to gain a larger majority in the House. He has since become critical of the strictest abortion bans in individual states.

An AP-NORC poll conducted in June 2023 found that about two-thirds of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The poll also found that 6 in 10 Americans believe Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.

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Associated Press journalists Lisa Mascaro and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux contributed from Washington.

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