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Trump remakes the RNC platform position on abortion

Trump remakes the RNC platform position on abortion

By Thomas Beaumont and Christine Fernando | Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Republican National Committee’s platform committee has adopted a policy document that reflects former President Donald Trump’s position opposing a federal abortion ban and ceding limits to states, omitting the explicit basis for a national ban for the first time in 40 years.

The committee, according to two people briefed on the language, agreed on the text, “We believe that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that no person can be denied life or liberty without due process and that the states are, therefore, free to pass laws protecting those rights.”

Two anti-abortion activist leaders spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal party deliberations.

The move comes as Trump imposes his priorities on the committee as he seeks to steer clear of strict abortion language, even while taking credit for setting up the 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. Trump appointed three of the six justices who voted in the majority to overturn the 1973 abortion rights precedent.

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

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

Dannenfelser stopped short of endorsing the document’s reflection of Trump’s view that the matter rests entirely with states. “Under this amendment, it is Congress that enacts and enforces it’s provisions.”

The platform is a statement of first principles traditionally written by party activists. Trump’s campaign wants the group drafting this year’s platform to produce a shorter document that excludes statements favored by many conservatives but are potentially unpopular with the broader electorate.

The platform committee begins its meeting Monday, a week before the start of the Republican National Convention in Wisconsin where Trump is scheduled to accept his third straight nomination for president.

Trump has faced months of Democratic criticism over abortion as President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign has highlighted that Trump nominated half of the Supreme Court majority that struck down the nationwide right to abortion in 2022. But among the vocal abortion opponents on the platform committee, some say the aspiration of a federal ban on abortion after a certain stage in pregnancy must remain a party principle, even if it’s not an immediately attainable policy or one that necessarily helps the Trump campaign in November.

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

While the abortion statement is likely to be the most contested provision in the platform, there may also be disputes over Trump’s preference for tariffs and his isolationist approach to foreign policy and U.S. involvement in global conflicts, particularly in helping Ukraine as it battles Russia.

Conservative activists who are accustomed to having a seat at the table fumed over what they said was a secretive process for selecting committee members and the meeting taking place behind closed doors.

“For 40 years, the Republican Party and the GOP platform have massively benefitted from an open and transparent process,” said Tim Chapman, the incoming president of Advancing American Freedom, a foundation headed by Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump’s campaign has sought to reshape the Republican National Committee into a campaign vessel. It signaled in a memo last month from senior campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles that “textbook-long platforms … are scrutinized and intentionally misrepresented by our political opponents.”

Trump ally Russ Vought is serving as the policy director of the Republican Party’s platform writing committee while also leading the effort to draft the 180-day agenda for Project 2025, a sweeping proposal for remaking government that Trump said Friday he knew “nothing about” despite having several former aides involved.

Trump had supported federal legislation in 2018 that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, though the measure fell short of the necessary support in the Senate.

However, after the 2022 midterm elections, Trump blamed Republicans who held strict anti-abortion positions for the party’s failure to secure a larger House majority. He has since been critical of the most stringent abortion bans in individual states.

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

Biden’s campaign has criticized Republicans for making the platform committee meetings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, closed to the news media and reminded voters of Trump’s onetime support for a 20-week abortion ban.

Tamara Scott, who is one of Iowa’s two Republican National Committee members and also a platform committee member, said Trump could campaign on the position he holds and also embrace the platform to reflect a longer-term goal of a federal limit.

“It’s our vision. It’s our foundational principles. It’s who we are as a party,” Scott said. “I agree a platform must be clear and concise but it must convey our core principles.”

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To several on the committee, that means maintaining support for an “amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth,” the passage first included in 1984.

Trump was urged to keep that language in the platform, according to a letter signed by leaders of groups opposed to abortion, including Dannenfelser, Ralph Reed, Faith and Freedom Coalition founder and chairman; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

That passage, once removed, would be difficult to restore in future platforms, Dannenfelser said.

“The conversation about the platform is about the future. It’s about presidential campaigns 10 years from now, and Senate campaigns and House campaigns, Republican campaigns everywhere,” Dannenfelser said. “It’s not just about this election. And that’s why it matters.”

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