Mike Pence Tries To Pressure Trump On A Federal Abortion Ban

The former VP pitched himself as more pro-life than Trump, but social conservatives don't seem bothered. “You can’t please all people all the time,” one said a gathering in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

WASHINGTON ― On the eve of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning reproductive rights, former Vice President Mike Pence challenged his fellow 2024 GOP presidential candidates to back a federal ban on abortion nationwide, arguing that it would help his party at the ballot box.

Speaking Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, a confab for social evangelicals, Pence took an implicit dig at his former boss Donald Trump by invoking his comments blaming the issue of abortion for the GOP’s disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

“The cause of life is the calling of our time, and we must not rest and must not relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state,” Pence told a crowd that numbered several hundred. “Every Republican candidate for president should support a ban on abortion before 15 weeks as a minimum nationwide standard.”

Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices that made repealing Roe v. Wade, a decadeslong GOP goal, reality last year, but he has so far resisted embracing a federal ban on the procedure. The former president has reportedly told advisers that he doesn’t think abortion is a winning issue, avoiding taking a direct stance on a ban in multiple interviews.

“What I’ll do is negotiate so people are happy,” Trump said at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire last month.

Other 2024 GOP candidates echoed Pence in voicing support for the idea of a 15-week federal ban while at the same time acknowledging that it isn’t politically feasable because its passage would require at least 60 votes in the Senate.

“If Congress puts a bill on my desk that has reasonable exceptions, I’ll sign it,” former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters on Friday. “As a practical matter, I’m very doubtful it’s going to have congressional action because it would need consensus in a divided Congress.”

Polls have repeatedly shown that abortion is a losing issue for Republicans, especially among independent voters. A Public Religion Research Institute survey released earlier this year found a majority of people in all seven states Trump won in 2016 — Arizona, Montana, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — think abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

Moreover, polls suggest that GOP primary voters assign more importance to a candidates’ views on the economy than they do on culture war topics like limiting the rights of transgender people and a national abortion ban. According to one CBS News/YouGov poll, only 58% of GOP primary voters say it’s important for a presidential candidate to support a national abortion ban.

The attendees at the Faith and Freedom Coalition event on Friday didn’t seem to mind all that much that Trump hasn’t been as outspoken about a national abortion ban as some other candidates in the race. The former president is still overwhelmingly popular with GOP primary voters and many of his rivals are running campaigns focused on heaping praise on him and his administration.

“Damned you do, damned if you don’t,” said John Jorgensen, a retired UPS worker from Georgia who wore a T-shirt with the words “pro-gun” and “pro-life” emblazoned on his back. He added: “That’s one of those issues, you gotta speak up or let it slide. He probably needs to pick a side, as far as being a Christian and following God’s leadership, that’s where he should stay.”

His wife, Betsy, agreed.

“You can’t please all people all the time,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in pro-life. We have a tendency to split hairs and that’s why we’re not united. If he were to make a firm stance, he’s going to isolate himself as well. I think he’s proven he’s pro-life.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the year that Trump won Arizona, Montana, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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