Trump’s Lies About Abortion in America Were Particularly Appalling

He falsely claimed that “all legal scholars” wanted Roe overturned, and that Democrats intend to execute newborns.

President Trump spewed anti-abortion lies and talking points at Thursday night's debate. Let's review the facts.Mother Jones illustration; Gerald Herbert/AP

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Former President Donald Trump did manage to say one accurate thing about abortion at Thursday night’s CNN presidential debate: He’s responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade. “I put three great Supreme Court justices on the court,” Trump said, “and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade and moving it back to the States.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has boasted about yanking the constitutional right to abortion from Americans. As I’ve written, he previously has bragged about appointing three of the five Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe.

But otherwise, Trump’s lied constantly about the realities of abortion in the US during the first debate. For example, Trump insisted that “all legal scholars” wanted Roe v. Wade overturned. As reproductive rights scholar and NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray said when I asked her for comment: “Yeah, that’s a lie.” In fact, several legal scholars have noted the overturning of Roe undermines the legitimacy of the court given the blatant disregard for precedent, or stare decisis, that the conservative justices showed in issuing the Dobbs decision. Legal scholars also filed several amicus briefs in the Dobbs case urging the court not to overturn Roe

Trump also falsely claimed that the Supreme Court “just approved the abortion pill,” referring to the recent case FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, brought by anti-abortion extremists, which sought to roll back some rule changes by the FDA that made mifepristone, the first of two pills used in a medication abortion, easier to access. In fact, as my colleague Nina Martin wrote, the court did not “approve” the pill, but instead ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case, since it was based on several hypotheticals:

The Alliance [Defending Freedom, a right-wing religious law firm] contended that a patient might be one of the rare people for whom the abortion pill didn’t work as intended, that she might then seek emergency care at a hospital, where she might encounter a provider who might belong to one of the anti-abortion groups in the lawsuit, who might be put in the position of having to perform an emergency procedure to remove the fetus. 

This matters because other plaintiffs could try to bring a challenge to mifepristone back to the Supreme Court in the future—and, as some reproductive scholars have written, the conservative justices appeared to signal that they’d be other to hearing other challenges to mifepristone in the future.

Another potential challenge to the pills may be found in the Comstock Act, the 19th-century anti-obscenity law that bars the mailing of “every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral use.” Trump’s acolytes at Project 2025, a plan of action for his second term devised by dozens of conservative groups and spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation, have explicitly said a conservative Justice Department should marshal the law to criminalize “providers and distributors of [abortion] pills.”

Trump did say tonight that he agreed with the high court’s decision in the mifepristone case, adding, “I will not block it.” But given the role Trump has already played in decimating abortion access nationwide, it’s far more prudent to pay attention to what he does about abortion, not what he says. Abortion rights advocates agree. When I asked Elisa Wells, co-director and co-founder of Plan C, a campaign focused on medication abortion access, if she believed Trump’s pledge not to block mifepristone if reelected, she replied, “I do not find Trump to be credible on any subject.”

Another example was Trump’s claim that he supports “exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.” That’s great. But reporting has suggested that so-called exceptions do not exist in real life. Moreover, many of his supporters would like him to go further and ban all abortions. Jonathan Mitchell, the conservative lawyer behind the Texas abortion ban, told the New York Times in February, “We don’t need a federal ban when we have Comstock on the books.”

Perhaps most egregiously—and preposterously—Trump insisted that Democrats “will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth, after birth.” Let’s break that down. First, federal data shows more than 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester. Research has shown that abortions in the third trimester are extremely rare—constituting only one percent of abortions—and they typically only occur when there are major medical concerns regarding the health of the mother or the fetus, or as KFF states, “barriers to care that cause delays in obtaining an abortion.” And regarding his claim that Democrats or physicians kill newborns, that procedure is already outlawed at the federal level. 

So Trump spewed a lot of lies about abortion tonight. But, as I’ve written, the facts about what he’s responsible for thanks to the overturning of Roe—young victims of rape or incest being forced to give birth or travel across state lines to access abortion, and women facing life-threatening pregnancy complications due to inability to access abortion, just to name a few—are simple facts, far away from political posturing.

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Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

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