For GOP presidential hopefuls, the weekend that marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade presented an opportunity to demonstrate just how opposed to abortion they were. At the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference on Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez all made their respective cases to an audience of approximately 500 religious conservatives in Washington, DC. Then on Saturday, it was former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s turn to defend her self-described “unapologetically pro-life” record, with the weekend culminating in the appearance of former president Donald Trump.
“We’re certainly going to do everything that we can, as an organization and as a pro-life and pro-family movement, to give our candidates a little bit of a testosterone booster shot and explain to them that they should not be on the defensive,” Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition said before the conference. “Those who are afraid of it need to, candidly, grow a backbone.”
As historically one of the most ardent anti-abortion candidates who calls himself an “advocate for the unborn,” Mike Pence urged all Republican candidates to support a federal 15-week abortion ban. “We must not rest and we must not relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state in this country,” he said on Friday.
Trump has avoided taking a definitive position on a national abortion ban, largely dodging the issue on the campaign trail. He has also expressed concerns that abortion might be a losing issue for Republicans, blaming his party’s lackluster performance in the midterm elections on the defeat of Roe. But at the Faith & Freedom Coalition annual event, the 2024 GOP candidates refrained from taking shots at Trump, who, Politico wrote in describing his appearance at the conference, “is still king of the evangelical cattle call.”
Nonetheless, there was one notable exception to the avoidance of discussing the former president: Chris Christie.
“Why am I running for president of the United States?” Christie asked the Trump-loving crowd, that shouted and booed in response. “I’m running because [Trump] let us down. He has let us down because he’s unwilling to take responsibility for any of the mistakes that were made, any of the faults that he has, and any of the things that he’s done. And that is not leadership, everybody.”
For Sen. Scott, the real enemy was the “radical left” who are trying to “divide our country according to race.” He praised the Dobbs decision, saying, “We are creating a culture of life in America.” DeSantis, who signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida, focused on patting himself on the back for his tireless efforts in fighting the culture wars, vowing to “extinguish the fire of Cultural Marxism once and for all.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Haley appeared to reverse course on her previous statements casting doubt on the viability of a federal abortion ban. “Now, some of the states have become more pro-life and I welcome that,” Haley said. “Some have become more on the abortion side; I wish that wasn’t the case. But now there’s the issue of, is there a place for a federal law? I think there is.”
About a mile away, President Joe Biden marked the one-year anniversary by hosting a rally with reproductive rights advocates where he announced an executive order to expand access to contraception. “We will not let the most personal of decisions fall into the hands of politicians,” Biden said. “Make no mistake, this election is about freedom on the ballot once again.”