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Tipsheet

Nikki Haley Boldly Speaks to Whether Abortion Is a Federal or States Rights Issue

AP Photo/Meg Kinnard

On Tuesday morning, former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) sought to distinguish herself as the pro-life candidate in the Republican primary. While delivering a speech at the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America headquarters, Haley made clear that abortion was "a sensitive topic that deserves our attention," but also that she "won’t demagogue or hide from it," unlike others. "I’m here to speak about it directly and openly. I won’t address every possible question or angle. Rather, I aim to start a constructive conversation about where we go from here in our divided country," she added.

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"I am pro-life. I am unapologetic and unhesitant about it. Not because the Republican Party tells me to be. But for very personal reasons," Haley said, also sharing that her husband, Michael Haley, and his younger sister were adopted. "It changed their lives. Adoption literally saved them," she mentioned. 

Haley likewise attributed her own struggles with having children to being pro-life, though she is now blessed to have two children today and just recently attended her daughter's wedding.

Eventually, Haley also addressed her pro-life record, not only as governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, but as ambassador to the United Nations for almost two years from 2017 to 2018. "I'm not done yet," Haley declared after listing off all of the pro-life bills she signed into law. "My goal as president will be the same as when I was Governor and Ambassador. I want to save as many lives and help as many moms as possible."

Haley mentioning that "this mission has become more urgent in the past year," is quite the understatement, when it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade with its Dobbs v. Jackson last year. "With the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, we entered a new era. It’s really a return to the way this issue was decided in our country for nearly two centuries," Haley reminded. "Until 1973, abortion was not a federal issue. Each state decided where it stood. Many had restrictive laws. Some had more permissive laws. Yes, the issue was controversial, but the citizens of each state reached a consensus that reflected their values."

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In describing the Roe decision, Haley also issued a crucial reminder about where the Roe decision put us with the rest of the world. "Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court changed that. It declared the entire nation must follow one standard. A standard determined not by the American people, but by unelected judges. And that standard was among the most liberal in the world."

Inevitably, whether or not Haley sees abortion as a federal issue came up. Her speech was especially critical, given that SBA Pro-Life America last week called out former and potentially future President Donald Trump for his campaign's response that abortion is best left as a states issue as a federal issue. 

"I said I want to save as many lives and help as many moms as possible. That is my goal. To do that at the federal level, the next president must find national consensus," Haley mentioned, which she acknowledged "might sound strange to many people." We have Roe to thank for that, though, she offered. "Under Roe, consensus was replaced by demonization. And let’s be honest: most in the media promote demonization. They stoke division pitting Americans against each other."

In her speech, Haley went about communicating the issue in a particularly insightful and clear-cut way, which is to say that abortion is not as simple as making it a federal issue or a state's right issue. 

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Her speech included a heavy emphasis on finding that consensus so as to save as many lives as possible. "You don’t save any lives if you can’t enact your position into law. And you can’t do that unless you find consensus," Haley reminded. "Today, each state is finding its own consensus, as they should," she shared, though that's not to say Haley doesn't think abortion cannot be handled at the federal level, just that it has to be done wisely.

"Nationally, however, the task is much harder. As a practical matter, you only achieve consensus when you have a House majority, a 60-vote Senate majority, and a president who are all in alignment," Haley said, setting the scene. "We are nowhere close to reaching that point. Today, there are around 45 pro-life senators, depending on how you count them. There haven’t been 60 Republican senators since 1910. It could happen one day. But it hasn’t happened in over a hundred years, and it’s unlikely to happen soon."

Haley continued with specifics, which, although may not be pleasant for pro-lifers to hear, is just how it is. "We have to face this reality. The pro-life laws that have passed in strongly Republican states will not be approved at the federal level," she stressed. "That’s just a fact, notwithstanding what the Democrat fearmongers say. They say Republicans are about to ban all abortions nationwide and send women to prison. These wildly false claims, amplified by a sympathetic media, are not designed to do anything other than score political points."

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It wasn't merely pro-life Republicans whom Haley was issuing reminders to, though. Rather, pro-abortion Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media need to be called out for their role in trying to "score political points" by spreading fear about where Republicans stand on the issue.

In contrast, pro-abortion Democrats have been trying to pass the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would not merely codify Roe, but would actually expand the decision and make abortion available throughout the entire country without any legal limit. 

Later in her speech, Haley would also address how "surely, we can all agree that abortion up until the time of birth is a bridge too far. Only seven countries on earth allow elective late-term abortions. We’re talking brutal regimes like Communist China and North Korea." These statistics come from the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of SBA Pro-Life America.

"They know as well as anyone that no Republican president will have the ability to ban abortion nationwide, just as no Democratic president can override the laws of all fifty states. It’s just not going to happen," Haley added about Democrats and the media.

Nevertheless, the speech still took on a hopeful and positive message. "But that does not mean we can’t save as many lives as possible," Haley shared, going on to say that "I do believe there is a federal role on abortion. Whether we can save more lives nationally depends entirely on doing what no one has done to date – finding consensus. That’s what I will strive to do."

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Haley made her case in contrast to Biden, should she be the Republican nominee facing him. "Pro-life political leaders and candidates must not put up with being demonized. We should call out the extremism of the Left," she declared. "We don’t need a president who endangers lives while dividing our country even more. We need a president who unites Americans and brings out the best in them, even on the toughest of subjects."

Above all, Haley sought to use the theme of "consensus" on an issue she admits is an emotional one. "That will be my approach as president. I believe in conversation. I believe in compassion. I believe in empathy, not anger," she reiterated, reminding that "We’re not just talking about policy here. We’re talking about people." 

Towards her closing, Haley also brought this back to why she holds such a view. "Our national history should give us hope," she reassured the crowd, painting the scene for where this increasingly prominent issue could take us.

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