Trump Helped Overturn Roe. Now He Wants to Run Away From the Consequences.

The former president’s most recent statement on abortion can’t erase his history on the issue—and doesn’t clarify much.

Mother Jones illustration; Shawn Thew/CNP/ZUMA

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Donald Trump wants to pretend he isn’t to blame for the devastating consequences of overturning of Roe v. Wade—even as he boasts about being responsible for the momentous Supreme Court decision.

In a more than four-minute-long video released on Truth Social this morning the presumptive Republican nominee attempted to clarify his nebulous stance on abortion rights. It remained confounding.

Trump took credit for overturning Roe and said he wants to leave abortion rights “to the states,” seemingly rebuking prior reporting that he’d support a 16-week national ban if re-elected. (Trump didn’t specifically say what he’d do if Congress passed a national ban and sent it to his desk as president). He also insisted on his support for exceptions for “rape, incest and life of the mother”—but didn’t make clear how he’d square that with his insistence on states’ rights to come up with their own abortion policy. (The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment seeking clarification on these points.)

This is, for all intents and purposes, a mish-mash of policies that sound fine but do not actually make sense in practice.

After all, it’s thanks to Trump—who appointed three of the five Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe—that 14 states have enacted almost total bans on abortion. And in 2016, the former president said there “has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions.

Trump also failed to acknowledge that abortion opponents, including many Republicans, are currently seeking to dramatically restrict access to medication abortion at the Supreme Court, and have also floated invoking the Comstock Act—a 19th-century anti-obscenity law that remains on the books—to enact a federal ban on abortion. (The campaign also didn’t respond to a request for comment on Trump’s stance on these issues.) 

So, Trump’s much-hyped “statement on abortion” didn’t actually clarify much at all: he’s essentially saying that, if re-elected, he wants to preserve the status quo, which is his doing, and has resulted in abortion bans spreading throughout the country. 

In fact, let’s review just some of what that decision has wrought: 

  • Children as young as 10 years old who have gotten pregnant as a result of rape have been forced to give birth, or cross state lines to get an abortion; 
  • Women like Kate Cox in Texas, and their doctors, have been forced to shoulder legal risk and take legal action in their quests to obtain abortions in light of life-threatening health emergencies;
  • As I’ve reported, advocates who support victims of domestic and sexual violence have been left in the lurch and without information on all their options to help survivors; 
  • IVF access has been imperiled, affecting couples who are trying to have kids.

But listening to Trump, you wouldn’t know any of this: he tried to cast Democrats as extremists through a litany of lies: 

  • He claims “all legal scholars, [on] both sides, wanted and, in fact, demanded” Roe be overturned. This is demonstrably false, as evinced by the ‘friend of the court’ briefs legal scholars filed in the Dobbs case urging the court not to overturn Roe
  • He says Democrats “support abortion up to, even beyond, the ninth month,” including through what he called “execution after birth.” Federal data shows more than 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester, and data from the states shows that third-trimester abortions are exceptionally rare. Most of the time, people get third-trimester abortions because they received new information about the pregnancy or faced barriers to obtaining an abortion earlier in their pregnancy. By “execution after birth,” it’s unclear what Trump was referring to (we asked his campaign), but it’s likely he’s talking about a procedure that’s already outlawed at the federal level. 
  • He insists that, thanks to Dobbs, “now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint” and that his stance on abortion supports “the will of the people.” But polling shows the majority of Americans disapproved of Dobbs and that most think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This is probably why so many ballot measures that have put the question of abortion rights directly to voters post-Dobbs has passed

As Ammar Moussa, the director of rapid response for President Biden’s re-election campaign, pointed out in a post on X: “Donald Trump is endorsing every single abortion ban in the states, including abortion bans with no exceptions. And he’s bragging about his role in creating this hellscape.” 

Trump, essentially, wants to have it both ways: he wants credit for Dobbs, while also ignoring its consequences and casting Democrats as extremists. And it seems to be working. Polling has showed voters don’t necessarily hold Trump responsible for overturning Roe. But they should: in the video, Trump said that he’s “proudly the person responsible” for the Dobbs decision.

Still, for the far-right that isn’t enough. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said the organization is “deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position.” 

“Saying the issue is ‘back to the states’ cedes the national debate to the Democrats,” Dannenfelser said in the statement. 

Ultimately, Trump didn’t announce anything new today—he just affirmed what we already know: abortion rights are currently left to the states, he won’t take ownership of the confusion and mayhem that Dobbs has wrought, and he’ll keep spreading false information about abortion. And, perhaps most importantly: abortion rights are on the ballot this November. 

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