Trump declines to endorse a national abortion ban and says it should be left to the states

The former president routinely takes credit for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, which he has called a “moral and unconstitutional atrocity."

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally,

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally, July 7, 2023, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Former President Donald Trump says he believes abortion should be left to the states in a video released Monday outlining his position after months of mixed messages and speculation.

“Many people have asked me what my position is on abortion and abortion rights,” Trump said in the video posted on his Truth Social site. “My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land — in this case, the law of the state.”

He declined to lay out a timeline for when he believes abortion should be banned. He went on to describe the current legal landscape, in which different states have different restrictions following the U.S. Supreme Court decision ending Roe v. Wade.

“Many states will be different. Many will have a different number of weeks or some will have more conservative than others and that’s what they will be,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s all about will of the people.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, had written on his social media site Sunday night that he planned to issue a statement on “abortion and abortion rights” after he sidestepped questions about when in a pregnancy he believes the line should be drawn.

Republican-led states have ushered in a wave of new restrictions following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. Democrats believe the fight over abortion rights helps them at the polls and have outperformed expectations in elections since.

“You must follow your heart on this issue,” Trump said in his message. “But remember, you must also win elections to restore our culture and, in fact, to save our country, which is currently and very sadly a nation in decline.”

Trump had long argued that the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe gave those who oppose abortion rights “tremendous power to negotiate.” He said he wanted to use that leverage to strike a deal that he hoped would “make both sides happy” and bring the country “together” — even though the issue is one of the most contentious in American politics, with opponents viewing abortion as murder and proponents seeing it as a fundamental women’s right.

Trump had suggested last month in a radio interview that he was leaning toward supporting a national abortion ban at around 15 weeks of pregnancy — early in the second trimester.

“The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15. And I’m thinking in terms of that,” he said on WABC radio. “And it’ll come out to something that’s very reasonable. But people are really, even hard-liners are agreeing, seems to be, 15 weeks seems to be a number that people are agreeing at.”

At the same time, Trump seemed reluctant to embrace a federal ban.

“Everybody agrees — you’ve heard this for years — all the legal scholars on both sides agree: It’s a state issue. It shouldn’t be a federal issue, it’s a state issue,” he said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Trump has tried to thread the needle on abortion throughout the campaign. He routinely takes credit for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, which he has called a “moral and unconstitutional atrocity,” and has called himself the “most pro-life president in American history.”

But he has also repeatedly criticized fellow Republicans for being too hard-line on the issue, blaming candidates who did not allow for exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the pregnant person is at risk for the party’s losses that November.

“A lot of politicians who are pro-life do not know how to discuss this topic and they lose their election. We had a lot of election losses because of this, because they didn’t know to discuss it. They had no idea,” he said at the Concerned Women of America 2023 Leadership Summit.

Democrats and President Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, have been spotlighting the issue as they work to draw a contrast with Trump.

Polling has consistently shown that most Americans believe abortion should be legal through the initial stages of pregnancy. About half of U.S. adults said abortions should be permitted at the 15-week mark, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted last June.

Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the vast majority of abortions from 2012 to 2021 were performed within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established the constitutional right to abortion until the time of viability, at around 23 or 24 weeks into pregnancy.

Abortions later in pregnancy are rare and are often performed due to serious fetal abnormalities, when the life of the mother is at risk, or when women have faced significant delays accessing the procedure, according to the health policy research firm KFF.


Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal