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Pro-Life Leaders Rebuke Trump Going After DeSantis for 'Too Harsh' Pro-Life Bill, DeSantis Responds

AP Photo/File

Update:

During a Tuesday press conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis responded to a question as to whether the pro-life bill he signed banning abortion, with exceptions, once a fetal heartbeat is detected, is "too harsh." Former and potentially future President Donald Trump had raised such a claim in an interview published on Monday.

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"Protecting an unborn child when there’s the detectable heartbeat is something that almost probably 99 percent of pro-lifers support. It’s something that other states like Iowa under Governor Kim Reynolds have enacted and I think that as a Florida resident, [Trump] didn’t give an answer about would you have signed the heartbeat bill that Florida did, that had all the exceptions that people talk about the legislature put it in. I signed the bill. I was proud to do it. He would not answer whether he would sign it or not," DeSantis pointed out. 

Original:

The abortion issue is once again heating up in the Republican presidential primary in a major way. Former and potentially future President Donald Trump gave an interview with TheMessenger that was published earlier on Monday. Trump, who is presently the clear frontrunner for the nomination, was inevitably asked about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), particularly his stance on abortion. DeSantis polls a distant second, though it's worth emphasizing he has not even formally announced yet. 

Last month, DeSantis signed a pro-life bill that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six-weeks, with exceptions. Despite the concern from some, pro-life organizations and leaders have widely supported the governor on such a move.

Trump is not necessarily among those in support, as the interview's write-up noted:

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Trump’s blunt communication style, however, becomes more vague when it comes to the issue of abortion. He’s not clear on what sort of restrictions he would support and wouldn’t say if he agreed or disagreed with DeSantis’s decision to sign a six-week abortion ban in Florida.

“He has to do what he has to do,” Trump said when asked about Florida’s new abortion restrictions. “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don't even know if he knew what he was doing. But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh.”

Trump wouldn’t say if he believed a six week ban went too far.

The actual transcript of the interview showed that Trump's answer on a six-week ban and whether he would sign one is that "I'm looking at all [options]." 

When asked by TheMessenger if it was "too harsh" for him, Trump mostly focused on his role in getting Roe v. Wade overturned with the Dobbs v. Jackson case, the outcome made possible thanks to the justices he nominated. "I'm looking at all alternatives. I'm looking at many alternatives. But I was able to get us to the table by terminating Roe v. Wade. That's the most important thing that's ever happened for the pro-life movement," was his reply. 

Pro-lifers reacted by challenging Trump's remarks that the ban was "too harsh," and expressed support and appreciation for DeSantis. 

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Both Live Action's Lila Rose and The Family Leader's Bob Vander Plaats tweeted out coverage of the interview from Fox News. Vander Plaats' tweet, currently his pinned tweet, was seconded by Students for Life of America's Kristan Hawkins.

Plaats, whose organization is based out of Iowa, also shared appreciation in his tweet for Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA). DeSantis appeared at an event with the fellow Republican governor at an event in March. He also appeared at events in Iowa over the weekend, while Trump canceled, citing weather concerns. 

Hawkins, who is also president of Students for Life of Action also provided a statement to Townhall about the interview. "Saying that protecting a human being with the universal sign of life — a heartbeat — is not a priority is truly harsh. The Pro-Life Movement did not fight for the preborn and their mothers for 50 years to simply sign off on “a line in the sand” of abortion policy that would allow more than 9 in 10 abortions. We have stated and continue to be clear that demanding protection at conception for all members of our human race is the ideal and that at a minimum, children with heartbeats must be protected," Hawkins said. 

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That being said, Trump does not appear to have completely ruled out support for a 15-week ban at the federal level. The DNC War Room certainly doesn't think so. In a press release last month they highlighted remarks he gave to WMUR as to if he would sign such a bill into law. 

"Well, we're gonna look at it. We're looking at a lot of different options," he said in part, and also later, when pressed for follow up on "the national level," he answered that "I think we'll get it done on some level, it could be on different levels, but we're gonna get it done. I know the issue very well. I think I know the issue better than most and we will get that taken care of."

During last week's town hall with CNN, Trump also stuck to a similar theme as he emphasized he's "looking at" a 15-week federal ban as an option while also speaking to his "negotiating ability," in addition to touting his successes in getting Roe overturned.

This most recent interview is not the only time that Trump has made what could certainly be described as "vague" comments on abortion. Last month, his campaign raised concerns among pro-lifers with its response to The Washington Post, in which spokesperson Steven Cheung framed the abortion issue as one states should handle, rather than the federal government. 

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Trump also blamed pro-lifers for last year's midterm election results that were far more disappointing to the movement than expected.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a leading pro-life organization that has vocally supported Trump in the past, spoke out against the Trump campaign statement at the time The Washington Post report was published. 

In response to the most recent interview, the organization provided a statement to Townhall praising DeSantis for signing the heartbeat bill into law. 

"Florida's Heartbeat Protection Act followed the science and the will of the people and was an enormous victory in the battle for human rights. According to a poll conducted by Ragnar, 62% of likely Florida voters backed the Heartbeat Protection Act. Support was highest amongst Hispanics at 76%. Sixty-one percent of Independents also support the measure as well as 58% of women. The Act gives more moms who need financial and emotional support the help they need during pregnancy and after their child is born. Tens of thousands of precious boys and girls will live and have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, bless the lives of others and enhance Florida’s communities," said SBA Pro-Life America. "Data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration indicates that 95% of more than 82,000 abortions in Florida last year were sought for “elective” or “social or economic” reasons. Florida will no longer account for 10% of abortions in the nation or be known as an abortion destination."

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The organization also publicly praised DeSantis back in April

Hawkins tweeted about DeSantis signing such legislation at the time last month, as did Rose.


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