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Updated May 31, 2024

Where do the 2024 presidential candidates fall on abortion?

While abortion has always been contentious in the United States, the overturning of Roe v. Wade has galvanized movements on both sides of the argument for expanding or restricting reproductive rights. Coming up in courts, ballot measures, legislatures, and elsewhere, the subject of abortion has been debated at all different policy levels.

Democrats used the ruling to push for greater access to abortions during the 2022 midterm elections. Now, they have used that momentum in their campaigns for the 2024 Presidential Election. Republicans have mainly called for tighter restrictions on abortion, but Republican candidates hold different views on the potential for a national abortion ban. Many have questioned Congress’ ability to find enough votes to pass federal restrictions. Democrats narrowly control the Senate with 51 seats (plus the vice president’s tie-breaking vote). However, with the filibuster, any bill would need 60 votes to invoke cloture.

Some candidates have also proposed alternative policies to regulate abortion, such as simplifying the adoption process or providing increased access to contraception.

In terms of the public’s opinion on abortion, 61% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 37% said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Also, 86% of Republicans, 95% of Democrats, and 93% of Independents supported abortion when a mother's life is endangered.

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Democratic Candidates

Joe Biden: Protect access to abortion on a federal level.

During a Democratic Candidates debate in the 2020 campaign, President Joe Biden said he would take action to protect abortion rights if he was elected:

“I support a woman's right to choose,” Biden said. “It's a constitutional right. I've supported it and I will continue to support it and I will, in fact, move as president to see to it that the Congress legislates that those are the laws as well.”

Biden said before the 2022 midterm elections that he would send a bill to Congress to write abortion rights into law if voters elected more Democratic senators and allowed Democrats to maintain the majority in the House of Representatives.

Biden noted that he is not "big on abortion" because of his Catholic affilation, but he expressed support for the abortion guidelines outlined in Roe v. Wade.

Two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, Biden issued an executive order to protect access to reproductive health care. He directed the Department of Health and Human Services to legally protect and increase access to medication abortion, family planning services, emergency contraception and reversible contraception options like IUDs. Biden instructed HHS to increase outreach and accurate education about reproductive health care and health rights. He directed the Attorney General to assist healthcare workers who provide legal reproductive health care services and states that give legal protection to patients who travel from other states to receive reproductive healthcare. 

Following Biden’s direction, HHS released clarifying information that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act protects patients’ rights to all emergency medical care, including abortion, and protects health care providers who give life-saving abortion services in emergency circumstances. The Biden administration sent letters to healthcare providers to explain EMTALA’s relation to abortion procedures and express that HHS would “take every action” within its capabilities to protect patients and providers who offer emergency abortion procedures.

Biden said women must retain their ability to travel to other states to receive reproductive health care. He signed an executive order in 2022 to allow states where abortion is legal to apply to use Medicaid funding to offer reproductive healthcare services for women who live in states where abortion is illegal.

Biden signed a presidential memorandum in January 2023 that directed government agencies to make medication abortion legally accessible and available for patients to pick up at pharmacies. In the memorandum, Biden also directed the Department of Justice and the FDA to defend patients’ rights to use mifepristone, a drug utilized in medication abortion.

The Biden administration has also worked to make contraception and “family planning services” more accessible and affordable.

Biden also overturned the conscience rule, which was expanded during the Trump administration, and Mexico City Policy, which Trump reinstated.

During his 2024 State of the Union address, Biden said he would “restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again” and work with Congress to codify Roe v. Wade into federal policy if voters elected Democrats. 

Marianne Williamson: Protect access to abortion on the federal level.

“I believe abortion is a moral issue, but it is an issue of private, not public morality. I do not believe the government has that right to legislate our private morals,” Author Marianne Williamson's website states, "Regarding abortion rights, I am one hundred percent pro-choice."

Williams supports codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law to protect access to abortion. She advocates to expand and restore funding for Planned Parenthood and other local healthcare clinics that provide abortion and other services. In addition, she has pushed to expand access to contraception and alternatives to abortion. Specifically, she has proposed a federal program that provides contraception resources and targets low-income communities.

Republican Candidates

Donald Trump: Supports state-by-state abortion legislatation and has signaled support for a federal 15-week abortion ban.

During the final debate of the 2016 presidential election, former President Donald Trump nominated Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who constituted three of the five votes to overturn Roe v. Wade

Trump took credit for overturning the case, as he said: “After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade.”

He has repeatedly referenced this in his 2024 campaign. During a campaign rally, he said, “I did something that for 52 years people talked, they spent vast amounts of money fighting it, but they couldn’t get the job done.”

During his presidency, Trump also signed a resolution allowing states to withhold federal funding for abortion providers and issued a proposal to modify Title X, barring healthcare providers that refer patients for abortions from federal funding. 

Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy in 2017, which stated that nongovernmental organizations could not offer or support abortion procedures in other countries in order to receive federal funding. The Trump administration cut funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the UN’s family planning and maternal health agency, because it said UNFPA funded a Chinese government family planning program that forced citizens to get sterilizations and abortions. The UN disputed this claim. 

Trump introduced an expanded “conscience rule” in 2019. The rule allowed health care workers to refuse care to patients for procedures including abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide if the procedures contradicted the providers’ religious or moral beliefs. 

Trump repeatedly called on Congress to ban “late-term abortion.” 

In 2020, Trump became the first president to attend the Annual March for Life, telling the crowd, “unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”

After leaving the White House, Trump said he would work with Democrats and Republicans to compromise on the number of weeks into pregnancies that abortion should be legal and determine whether policies on abortion should be passed by states or the federal government. During a radio interview, he said: "maybe we could bring the country together on that issue. The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15. And I’m thinking in terms of that…even hardliners are agreeing."

He criticized a bill that Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R) signed into law that banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, stating, “I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” 

Trump said he thinks it is likely better to allow states to pass abortion policies than to pass federal policy but said, “I can live with it either way. … It could be state or it could be federal. I don’t frankly care.”

In April, Trump said overturning Roe v. Wade “wasn't about abortion so much as bringing it back to the states” When a reporter asked Trump if he would sign a federal bill banning abortion after 15 weeks, Trump said: "I don't think there would be any reason for it because all the states are going to have their own [bills]." 

Trump said he has “never, and will never advocate imposing restrictions on birth control, or other contraceptives” in a post on Truth Social.

Trump has also expressed support for exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is at risk, as “without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win the elections.”

Independent Candidates 

Cornel West: Protect access to abortion on the federal level.

Protecting the reproductive rights of women and ending all forms of patriarchy.”

In addition to supporting the federal protection of abortion, he believes that child poverty should take precedence over talks on abortion: “If they're committed to the well-being of the child, you would think they would be on the cutting edge of eliminating child poverty.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Once supported a 15-week federal ban on abortion, but has since backtracked on his statement.

Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has changed his position on abortion multiple times.

 While he was running as a Democratic candidate, Kennedy once stated that he would approve of a 15-week ban abortion ban passed by states. A few hours later, a spokesperson for Kennedy said he “does not support legislation banning abortion” and believed that women should always have the right to make choices about their own bodies. The next day, he specified that he believes women should be able to choose to have abortions through the first three months of pregnancy.

“Once a child is viable, outside the womb, I think then the state has an interest in protecting the child,” he said.

Kennedy said during a May podcast interview that he believed that there is “a compelling argument that the state has a interest in protecting a fully formed fetus.” However, he said he was wary of government intervention because women should always be trusted to make decisions about their bodies and their pregnancies. He said he would not prevent women from having abortions, even when their pregnancies came to full term, if they chose to. 

Kennedy clarified in an X post the next day that he believes “abortion should be legal up until a certain number of weeks, and restricted thereafter.” 

He added in the post that “I believe that point should be when the baby is viable outside the womb. Therefore I would allow appropriate restrictions on abortion in the final months of pregnancy, just as Roe v. Wade did.”

Kennedy said in the podcast episode that he believes that “every abortion is a tragedy” and vowed to make it easier for women to raise their children. On Kennedy’s campaign website, he describes his policy “More Choices, More Life.” The website states, Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in American politics. We’ve been offered two positions — pro-life and pro-choice — with hardly any room between or outside them.”  The policy would “dramatically reduce abortion,” according to the website, by giving women and families more choices in pregnancy.

Kennedy’s website states, “There isn’t a lot of support to raise a child in this society,” referring to the financial struggles of pregnant women. “You can’t call yourself pro-life if you are concerned only with life before birth. What about after birth? We have to make our society as welcoming as possible to children and to motherhood.”

"More Choices, More Life" would introduce subsidized daycare, bolster the nation’s adoption infrastructure aad increase the child tax credit to support people as they raise families. Kennedy’s website states these policies “will make it easier for women to choose life” and the country “will see a lot fewer abortions, and a lot more flourishing families.”

This blog was written by Harry Ding, Content Intern (Center bias). It was reviewed and edited by Malayna J. Bizier, News Assistant (Right bias) and Kai Lincke, Content Intern (Lean Left bias). It was updated by Kai Lincke.