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Can Trump hide from abortion?

Always, watch Trump.

The former president is suddenly keeping his distance from anti-abortion extremists as he makes another run for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. 

His rivals see an opening. They are betting they can beat Trump by grabbing the label of the most anti-abortion candidate in the race.

Suddenly, the GOP primaries have become a race to see which candidate will be the first to endorse a nationwide ban on abortion.

Trump’s position for now is that abortion law is up to the states.

That’s a “morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate to hold,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, leader of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “Life is a matter of human rights, not states’ rights.”

Winning the White House in 2024 is secondary for anti-abortion evangelical voters. Their priority is a candidate who supports a national ban.

This political dynamic reveals that the GOP has lost control of the extreme Christian conservative passions that turned abortion into a GOP culture war issue.

“The demand for anti-abortion legislation just cost Republicans another crucial race,” conservative, pro-life columnist Ann Coulter tweeted earlier this month after the GOP lost a Wisconsin state supreme court race defined by the fight over abortion.

Pointing to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling ending constitutional protection for abortion, Coulter wrote: “Pro-lifers: WE WON. Abortion is not a ‘constitutional right’ anymore! Please stop pushing strict limits on abortion, or there will be no Republicans left.”

She is referring to the spate of radical anti-abortion laws being fast-tracked by Republican governors and state legislatures. 

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), trying to get as close as possible to satisfying the far right’s demand for a national ban on abortion, signed a law banning abortions in his state after six weeks of pregnancy.

DeSantis, currently polling behind Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, held the signing ceremony near midnight. When the sun came up the next day, he made no mention of the six-week ban while speaking at a conservative, Christian school, Liberty University. DeSantis wants the credit for the six-week ban but not the controversy.

And it is controversial because it is not uncommon for women to be unaware that they are pregnant until they are past six weeks. 

Now other candidates running for the presidential nomination are trying to follow the DeSantis strategy. But Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) immediately tripped over his words.

He launched into a total word-salad, non-answer when asked if he backs a nationwide ban on abortions.

At first, he said he is “100 percent pro-life.” Then Scott, who recently took his first steps toward getting in the race, said he supports a 20-week ban but refused to say if he supports a 15-week ban on abortions nationwide. Then he said that if he wins, he will be the president who signs the most pro-life law that “can get through Congress.”

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, also in the race for the nomination, tries to avoid talk about a national abortion ban by blandly declaring that she is “strongly pro-life.”

Meanwhile, Trump ‘s refusal to embrace a federal law banning abortion is constantly criticized by the anti-abortion absolutists. His position that it is up to the states is “a morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate,” said Dannenfelser.

But as president, Trump put three anti-abortion justices on the nation’s highest court, opening the door to ending federal abortion rights.

He also put Texas judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk on the federal bench. He is the judge who suspended use of an abortion pill, safely used for 20 years.

Trump’s campaign recently put out a statement calling him the “most pro-life president in history.” He said the Supreme Court “got it right when they ruled this is an issue that should be decided at the state level.” He did not address efforts to ban abortions in the states. He said nothing about a six-week limit in Florida.

Why is Trump so reticent?

Poll after poll shows a strong majority of Americans oppose legislation banning abortion. The midterms had “five states with abortion referenda on the ballot and in every single one – including the deep red state of Kentucky – the pro-choice position won,” noted Elaine Kamarck and William A. Galston of Brookings.

Trump, looking beyond the primaries, surely knows that any Republican backing a nationwide ban on abortion will be badly wounded going into the general election.

Look at recent elections: Earlier this month, conservatives lost control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court over abortion. 

Last year, voters in deep-red Kansas overwhelmingly rejected an anti-abortion ballot measure. 

In last year’s congressional midterm elections, exit polls suggested Democrats were able to keep control of the Senate and limit their losses in the House of Representatives due to outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to end abortion rights. 

In an irony for the ages, Trump – the man most responsible for putting abortion in the middle of today’s politics – is the only one on the campaign trail keeping quiet.

But if the GOP wants to avoid a wipeout in 2024 elections, they will have to try the impossible and do all they can to hide their anti-abortion agenda. At best they can follow Trump’s strategy — say nothing.

Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. 

Tags abortion abortion bans Ann Coulter Donald Trump Nikki Haley pro-life Roe v. Wade Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Tim Scott

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