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Where the 2024 Presidential Candidates Stand on Life: Who will protect it and who will endanger it?

by | Jul 12, 2023

By Karen Cross, NRL Political Director

Editor’s note. This appeared in the July edition of NRL News, “the pro-life newspaper of record.” Please share with your family and friends.

The 2024 presidential primaries and caucuses are right around the corner!

It has been a full year since the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, but there are still widespread misunderstandings about the decision. Some continue to claim, incorrectly, that the Court handed exclusive authority over abortion policy to the state governments. Some even suggest that there is no role whatsoever for the federal government in establishing legal protections for unborn children and their mothers. This is also incorrect. In fact, Dobbs determined that abortion-related policies should be enacted by elected representatives of the American people, not dictated by the courts. Moving forward, both the states and the federal government, including the executive branch, have important roles to play and responsibilities to fulfill in order to protect unborn babies and their mothers.

Presidents can directly influence abortion policy (and save lives) because they have the authority to sign or veto legislation passed by Congress, make judicial nominations (including for the Supreme Court), issue executive orders, shape the priorities of federal departments such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice, and more. Who we elect as president matters! It matters because the lives of vulnerable unborn children and their mothers will be impacted.

While some on the Republican side of the aisle remain unclear about the Dobbs ruling and the role of the federal government, there is little confusion or misunderstanding among our opposition. The pro-abortion movement fully grasps that the states and the federal government impact abortion policy in unique ways. They know firsthand because at this very moment amidst the new Dobbs legal and political landscape, they are reaching for every lever of power currently at their disposal. For example, recently, abortion advocates passed legislation in Maine to expand abortion for any reason until birth, while at the same time exerting their influence in the Biden Administration to force the Department of Veterans Affair (VA) to begin performing abortions for any reason so that women serving in the military may circumvent pro-life protections in various states.

Candidates for federal office who adopt the dubious position that “only the states” can be concerned with the protection of life are heading down a dangerous road. Following the 2022 elections, a McLaughlin and Associates poll found that 51% of voters took the issue of abortion into account when voting. By ducking from the issue and claiming, with no legal basis, that abortion does not fall under their jurisdiction, these candidates risk alienating pro-life voters they need in their coalition, and they give their opponents a golden opportunity to fill the void with misinformation, fear-mongering, and wild exaggeration.

National Right to Life (NRLC) recently issued a memo to clarify the role of the federal government on this issue. It enumerates numerous ways federal lawmakers and the president can act (and have an obligation to act) in order to protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion. Read more here.

Looking at the current field of presidential candidates, 2024 is shaping up to be a clear contest between a Democrat who supports a policy of unlimited abortions for any reason and a Republican who opposes unlimited abortions and supports at least some protections for unborn children and their mothers. It will be a race between a Democrat who supports using tax dollars to pay for abortions and a Republican who does not. These are the dynamics that are likely to be at play regardless of which candidates win their respective party’s nominations.

Let’s take a look at the Republicans and Democrats who have entered the race thus far and delve into where they stand on the right to life.

To be listed below, candidates must have officially announced presidential bids and garnered a minimum of 1% support in a national poll conducted by a reputable firm (or garnered 5% in a state poll). Speculative or undeclared candidates are not included. As additional candidates enter the race and as newer polls are conducted, this article may be amended.

Republicans:

Donald J. Trump (Former President)

President Trump supports protections for unborn babies and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. As President, Donald Trump restored the “Mexico City Policy,” which prevents tax funds from being given to organizations operating abroad that perform abortions or lobby to change the abortion laws of host countries. He later expanded the policy as the “Protecting Life in Global Health Policy” to prevent $9 billion in foreign aid from being used to fund the global abortion industry. Trump issued regulations to ensure Title X funding did not go to facilities that perform or refer for abortions. He supports the passage of the No Taxpayer Funding for Act. Trump nominated individuals for the Judiciary who pledged to interpret the Constitution as written rather than to legislate from the bench. Notably, he nominated Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, all three of whom were among the majority in the landmark Dobbs vs. Jackson. He also holds the distinction of being the first U.S. president to attend the annual March for Life in person.

For more information on President Trump’s record, see the Presidential Record on Life.

Ron DeSantis (Current Governor of Florida, former Congressman)

Governor DeSantis supports protections for unborn babies and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. He recently signed legislation in Florida to protect unborn children when they have detectable heartbeats. He also signed a parental consent measure so that secret abortions cannot performed on minor girls without a parent signing off. In addition, DeSantis has allocated millions of dollars for pregnancy support and prenatal health services. He removed the sales tax for baby clothes and diapers in Florida. As a member of Congress, he voted in favor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Throughout his terms in Congress, DeSantis held a 100% pro-life voting record with National Right to Life.

Nikki Haley (Former UN Ambassador, Governor of South Carolina)

Ambassador Haley supports protections for unborn babies and their mothers. She opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions and has voiced support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding of abortion in many federal programs. In her role as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, she was instrumental in cutting off U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which promotes abortion globally. As Governor of South Carolina, Haley signed legislation to protect unborn babies who are capable of experiencing pain from brutal late abortions. She has stated that she would like to see similar legislation passed on the federal level. Haley has also urged Congress to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to ensure infants born during failed abortions receive the same degree of medical care as any other baby born at the same gestational age. She signed similar legislation on the state level in South Carolina.

Mike Pence (Former Vice President, Governor of Indiana, Congressman)

Vice President Pence supports protections for unborn babies and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. As Governor of Indiana, Pence signed non-discrimination legislation to protect babies from being aborted on the basis of a disability or condition such as Down syndrome. As Governor and as a member of Congress, Pence worked to redirect taxpayer funds from abortion providers to local community health centers. In Congress, he voted in favor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Pence has voted for a measure to protect unborn babies who can feel pain from late abortions, and he has stated that he supports the passage of legislation that protects unborn babies when they have detectable heartbeats.

Tim Scott (Current U.S. Senator from South Carolina, former Congressman)

Senator Scott supports protections for unborn babies and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. Scott has a 100% pro-life voting record with National Right to Life. Scott voted in favor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would stop federal tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions. Scott voted to protect unborn babies who are capable of feeling pain from excruciating late abortions, and he voted for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. He voted against the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act, a radical pro-abortion bill that would enshrine abortion in federal law and strike down state level protections for unborn children and their mothers.

Vivek Ramaswamy (Entrepreneur, author, commentator)

Mr. Ramaswamy has described himself as “unapologetically pro-life,” and he opposes unlimited abortions, but he does not accept the federal role in the protection unborn children and their mothers. “It’s an issue for states,” he told CNN in April. Ramaswamy described his position in this manner on Fox News; “Life ends right when brainwaves end. That’s how we determine when life ends on the back end. I think we should apply a consistent principle on the front end, that’s around the six-week mark that brainwaves do begin.” But, he added, “This is not an answer for the president, because I think the federal government should be out of this.” Ramaswamy has called out corporations for pushing pro-abortion viewpoints and chided pro-abortion proponents of cancel culture.

Asa Hutchinson (Former Governor of Arkansas)

Governor Hutchinson supports protections for unborn children and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, he signed legislation protecting unborn children throughout pregnancy in Arkansas. Throughout his terms as Governor, Hutchinson signed numerous protective measures for unborn children and their mothers, including a law protecting live unborn babies from the gruesome practice of dismemberment abortions, Arkansas’s Safe Haven Law to protect newborns, and a law requiring abortion providers to inform women about the potential for abortion pill reversal if she should change her mind. Hutchinson also ended state contracts with abortion providers and redirected taxpayer funds to local community health centers.

Chris Christie (Former Governor of New Jersey)

Governor Christie supports protections for unborn children and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. As Governor of New Jersey, Christie vetoed taxpayer funding for the nation’s largest abortion provider. In a June statement to the Washington Post, Christie opined that abortion policy should be determined exclusively by state governments. In an April Semafor interview, Christie echoed that the federal government “should not be involved” in enacting protections for unborn children and their mothers. However, Christie has previously voiced support for protecting unborn babies by the point at which science shows they are capable of feeling pain. He previously argued, “America is one of just seven countries that permits elective abortions past this point. We can do far better than this. I urge Congress to take swift action on this important issue.”

Doug Burgum (Current Governor of North Dakota)

Governor Burgum supports protections for unborn children and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, Burgum signed his state’s trigger law, which protects unborn children throughout pregnancy. Since the ruling, he signed a series of bills to aid pregnant women, including measures exempting children’s diapers from the sales tax, establishing an adoption tax credit and a tax credit for contributions to maternity homes, child-placing agencies or pregnancy help centers, and developing a state HHS-run pregnancy and parenting resource website. Previously, he signed a measure protecting unborn babies in North Dakota at the point when a heartbeat can be detected. Burgum declined to elaborate on the types of pro-life proposals he would sign as president when asked by the Washington Post, instead stating, “It’s a hypothetical question. Whenever people asked me that about bills in North Dakota, I say I’ll answer that question after it’s on my desk, but it’s not on my desk yet.”

Will Hurd (Former Congressman from Texas)

Congressman Hurd supports protections for unborn children and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. As a member of Congress representing Texas’s 23rd District from 2015-2021, Hurd voted for several protective measures for unborn children and their mothers, including the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act as well as proposals to redirect federal taxpayer dollars from abortion providers to local community health centers. In addition, Hurd voted in favor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. He has also expressed support for helping pregnant women in need, tweeting recently, “As a country, we must do the hard work to prevent unplanned pregnancies and do a better job of supporting women who have an unplanned pregnancy, as well as their children, regardless of circumstances. They need compassion and care.”

Larry Elder (Former California gubernatorial candidate and conservative radio host)

Larry Elder supports protections for unborn children and their mothers, and he opposes the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. Elder ran against pro-abortion Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election. During that race, a stark contrast was drawn between Elder’s pro-life views and Newsom’s support for unlimited abortion for any reason until birth. Elder pledged to oppose the expansion of abortion in California (a top priority for Newsom), to appoint conservative judges, and to halt the flow of California tax dollars to pay for abortions.

The Democrats:

Joe Biden (Current President, former U.S. Senator from Delaware)

The Biden-Harris Administration is the most pro-abortion presidential administration in U.S. history. That’s not an exaggeration. The Biden Administration has employed a whole-of-government approach in their push for unlimited abortions nationwide for any reason even until the moment of birth. And they have made it no secret that they want to use our tax dollars to pay for it. In fact, in one of his first acts as president, Biden rescinded the Trump-era Protecting Life in Global Health Policy, allowing American tax dollars to resume flowing to organizations that provide and/or promote abortions abroad. For judicial nominations, Biden has vowed to only appoint individuals who support a right to abortion. Among these was Ketanji Brown Jackson, who now sits on the Supreme Court. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are strong supporters of the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would enshrine unlimited abortion in federal law and policies and strike down existing protections for unborn children and their mothers on the state level. Passage of the WHPA remains a top priority for the Biden Administration. Biden has threatened to veto any bills passed by pro-life lawmakers in Congress that would protect unborn children and their mothers from abortions. If given four more years in the White House, when they would no longer have the looming prospect of going before the American voter, it is reasonable to expect that the Biden-Harris Administration would only intensify the push for their abortion-without-limits agenda.

For a one-page summary of Joe Biden’s pro-abortion record, check out The Presidential Record on Life.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Attorney)

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. supports a policy of unlimited abortion for any reason, and he opposes legal protections for unborn children. At a townhall meeting in New Hampshire, Kennedy stated that while he believes “every abortion is a tragedy,” he does not think “the government has any business telling people what they can and cannot do with their body.”

Marianne Williamson (Author, Speaker)

Marianne Williamson supports a policy of unlimited abortion for any reason, and she supports the use of tax dollars to pay for it. She opposes protections for unborn children and their mothers. In addition to calling herself “one hundred percent pro-choice,” she states on her campaign website that she “would vigorously resist any effort to restrict, limit, or diminish the reproductive rights and freedoms granted by Roe v. Wade.” She advocates the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and similar statutes that bar or limit taxpayer funding for abortion, and she supports using tax dollars to fund abortion providers. Williamson is committed to nominating pro-abortion individuals to the Judiciary, including to the Supreme Court.

Additional Resources:

6 Ways to Defeat a Pro-Life Candidate

What Every Candidate Needs to Know About Abortion

15-Week Phantom Ban: By: David N. Osteen, Ph.D.

Consensus on Abortion- Why and Why Not?: By: David N. O’Steen, Ph.D.

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