Home Top Stories Trump risks losing key voter base with opposition to Arizona abortion law, pro-lifers say

Trump risks losing key voter base with opposition to Arizona abortion law, pro-lifers say

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Trump risks losing key voter base with opposition to Arizona abortion law, pro-lifers say

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Former President Trump’s opposition to a strict abortion ban in Arizona has put him at odds with pro-life and Christian activists, who represent a voter base key to his presidential election effort. 

Last week, the Trump presidential campaign released a statement saying that states should decide how to regulate abortion. Days later, that position was tested when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that an 1864 law banning abortion without exception for rape or incest should be enforced. 

Trump, who claims to be the most pro-life president in U.S. history, said the court’s decision “went too far” and urged lawmakers to “ACT IMMEDIATELY, to remedy what has happened.” He said that “ideally” anti-abortion laws must contain exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. In other comments, he expressed confidence that the Arizona law will be “straightened out.” 

That message was ill-received by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life activist, who leads the group “And Then There Were None.” 

TRUMP SAYS ARIZONA PRO-LIFE LAW WENT ‘TOO FAR’ AS BIDEN CAMP CLAIMS POLICY U-TURN

Abby Johnson

CEO of “And Then There Were None” Abby Johnson speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in a hotel in Mexico City, Mexico Nov. 19, 2022. Johnson told Fox News Digital in an interview that former President Donald Trump risks alienating pro-life voters by opposing state bans on abortion without exceptions for rape or incest.  (Reuters/Luis Cortes)

“What I heard was that [Trump] is a person that does not believe in banning abortion,” Johnson told Fox News Digital in an interview. She said there was a conflict between Trump’s position that states should decide for themselves and his statement that Arizona went “too far.” 

“So, here was a state that said we’re going to ban abortion. And now he says, ‘well, no, I don’t want you to,'” Johnson said. “That tells me he doesn’t want to ban it at the federal level. But he also doesn’t believe the states should have a right to ban it at the state level.” 

It was a disappointing development for Johnson, who spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention in support of Trump’s re-election. In her speech, she said Trump “has done more for the unborn than any other president.” She pointed to several of his accomplishments, including reinstating the Mexico City policy — critics call it the “global gag rule” — which blocks U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organizations that support abortion services, as well as appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, making state abortion restrictions possible.

Indeed, Trump takes credit for his pro-life record regularly on the campaign trail. But he has also repeatedly criticized fellow Republicans for taking a hard-line stance 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 GOP’s setbacks in the 2022 midterm elections.

“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 last year at a leadership summit of the Concerned Women of America.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

TRUMP SAYS ABORTION SHOULD BE DECIDED BY THE STATES, ‘WILL OF THE PEOPLE’

Trump at rally

Former US President Donald Trump during a campaign event in Green Bay, Wisconsin, US, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Trump released a statement on abortion rights on April 8, saying that states should be free to decide their own abortion restrictions.  (Daniel Steinle/Getty Images)

The pro-life cause has also suffered a handful of defeats on ballot initiatives that enshrined abortion rights protections even in red states like Ohio and Kansas. Similar initiatives in Arizona and Florida, among other states, are expected to drive up turnout in the November election. 

William Wolfe, a former Trump official who served in the State and Defense Departments, said those defeats show that “the culture in America still loves abortion, or deeply misunderstands what is happening in an abortion.” 

Wolfe is the executive director of the Center for Baptist Leadership (CBL), a newly-founded nonprofit that exists to revitalize the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), America’s largest Christian protestant denomination. Though the group does not endorse or support political candidates, it released a statement last week that praised Trump for his pro-life record in the White House, but urged him “to forsake the advice of compromising political consultants” as he engages with pro-life voters in his third campaign for the White House. 

Arizona Women's March protest

Demonstrators during a Women’s March rally in Phoenix, Arizona, US, on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. Pro-choice groups condemned a state Supreme Court decision that said an 1864 law banning most abortions could be enforced.    (Caitlin O’Hara/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In an interview, Wolfe described the Arizona abortion ban as “a great law” and encouraged Trump to make an “unapologetic moral argument” about how abortion “ends innocent life” and “should be recognized as murder.” 

“Evangelicals and Southern Baptists are eager to support candidates who show unflinching courage and make moral arguments against the civilizational suicide that is abortion. I would encourage everybody to stand strong on this issue and run to it and not away from it, because we know that human life is valuable and should be protected from the moment of fertilization until the natural death,” he said.

ARIZONA SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS NEAR-TOTAL ABORTION BAN

Walker Wildmon, vice president and spokesman of the American Family Association, said the Arizona Supreme Court ruling was a valid ruling that recognizes the pro-life position, that life begins at conception and should be protected until natural death.

While giving Trump credit for his record, Wildmon said the former president’s most recent statements are “out of line with his party and the entire pro-life movement.” 

“Just as slavery was a stain on our country, abortion is also a stain on our country. So in our view, since we believe that every life begins at conception, any abortion is too many abortions,” he said. 

Wildmon warned that Trump risks alienating a significant number of Evangelical Christian voters by attempting to appeal to independents or suburban women by watering-down his pro-life stance. 

“The reality is that wiggling or squirming on the abortion issue isn’t going to pick him up many voters,” he said. “It will really suppress the Evangelical Christian vote. There’s already Evangelical Christians out there, a large voting bloc in the Republican Party, that have some concerns about President Trump and how he handles things and his self-control.” 

He added that Trump “really needs to be moving to the right on this issue” to consolidate his supporters ahead of a general election showdown with President Biden. 

BILL MAHER SKEWERS TRUMP, GOP’S SHIFT ON ABORTION: ‘SO KILLING BABIES IS OK IN SOME STATES?’

While Republicans triangulate their position on the issue, Democrats have attempted to portray Trump as the man singularly responsible for stripping away women’s rights. 

“Here in Arizona, they have turned the clock back more than a century on women’s rights and freedoms. The overturning of Roe was a seismic event. And this ban in Arizona is one of the biggest aftershocks yet,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at a campaign event in Tuscon on Friday. 

She called Trump “the architect of this health care crisis” and argued a second Trump term would mean “more bans, more suffering, less freedom.” 

Katie Hobbs

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs gives a brief speech prior to President Joe Biden’s remarks at the Tempe Center for the Arts on Sept. 28, 2023 in Tempe, Arizona. Hobbs has called on the Arizona legislature to repeal the 1864 ban.  (Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, said Trump appears mindful that far-reaching laws that restrict abortion access could make his re-election difficult. He and the other pro-life activists interviewed for this story emphasized that Trump remains the best alternative to President Biden for pro-life voters in the upcoming election.

“Trump may hold the position that, under the circumstances, states shouldn’t go that far. And he’s certainly entitled to that position. I believe he’s wrong on that, but that’s a far-cry from Joe Biden, who is saying he’s willing to impose a nationwide abortion at any stage, for any reason, paid-for-by-taxpayers regime on the country,” Burch told Fox News Digital. 

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Still, Johnson said that many pro-life activists she’s met with have told her Trump has lost their votes with his criticisms of the Arizona law and Florida’s six-week abortion ban. “It doesn’t mean that they’re going to go cast their vote for Biden, but they are not going to vote for Trump” she told Fox News Digital. 

“I think that just saying that you’re pro-life is not going to be good enough anymore for some pro-life voters,” Johnson added. “And so while I think there’s a lot of people who are waiting to see, and I’m one of those people who are waiting to see if Trump is going to right this ship, I think that he does need to be very careful with how he moves forward between now and the election.” 

Fox News Digital’s Paul Steinhauser and Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report. 

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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