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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.

During the 2022 midterms, Democrats used the ruling to push for greater access to abortions. 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; for example, some have advocated to simplify the adoption process or to provide 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.

“I support a woman's right to choose. I support–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 has expressed support for the abortion guidelines outlined in Roe v. Wade, calling Congress to codify Roe v. Wade into federal policy. In addition, he has signed executive orders to expand access to contraception and family planning services. He has also defended access to mifepristone, an abortion medication, citing the FDA’s authority to approve prescription drugs.

Dean Phillips: Protect access to abortion on the federal level.

"The Supreme Court’s decision to unravel decades of settled law and allow states to outlaw abortion with no exceptions is both dangerous and shortsighted, and Congress must take action to codify Roe and protect a woman’s right to make decisions about her health."

Phillips is a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus in Congress. He co-sponsored and voted for HR 8297, the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, and HR 8111, all of which would protect women seeking abortion care across state lines. He is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Action Fund.


Republican Candidates: 

Nikki Haley: Supports a 15-week federal ban, but has emphasized the need for "consensus."

“Instead of demonizing the issue, let's humanize the issue.”

Haley is open to a federal ban at 15 weeks if consensus was met, but she thinks a federal ban is unrealistic. She has noted that passing any measure on abortion would be highly unlikely without more Republicans in Congress due to the divisiveness of the issue. As a result, she has advocated for alternative policies such as making the adoption process cheaper, making contraception more accessible, and protecting women who receive abortions from jail time or the death penalty. As state legislator and governor for South Carolina, she supported bills that mandated ultrasound tests and a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion could be performed. She also signed a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, the earliest term limit allowed under Roe v. Wade at the time. This did not provide exceptions in cases of rape or incest, but included them to save the life of the mother.

Donald Trump: Noncommittal on a federal ban on abortion.

“What’s going to happen is you’re going to come up with a number of weeks or months, you’re going to come up with a number that’s going to make people happy.”

During his presidency, he played a primary role in the overturning of Roe v. Wade by nominating three conservative Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of overturning the case. In his 2024 campaign, he has repeatedly referenced this: “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.” In other major actions, he 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. 

Despite his role in restricting access to abortions, he is noncommittal on whether state or federal governments should regulate them. He criticized a bill signed into law by Desantis (R-FL) that banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, stating that “I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” When asked about a federal ban, Trump said "people are starting to think of 15 weeks" as the gestational limit, but declined to say whether he would sign such a proposal. In another discussion, he said, "It could be state, or it could be federal. I frankly don't care." In recent months, he has expressed support for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is at risk: “Without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win the elections.”


Independents: 

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.

While he was running as a Democratic candidate, he once stated he would approve of a 15-week ban by the states: “Once a child is viable, outside the womb, I think then the state has an interest in protecting the child.” However, he reversed his statement after backlash, clarifying that he “does not support legislation banning abortion.” On his campaign website, he states that it’s a “woman’s choice” in terms of how a pregnancy should be handled in the first trimester.


Candidates Who Have Dropped Out

Doug Burgum: Leave the issue of abortion to the states.

"The principal reason why we would say no on the national ban is because I believe in the limited scope of the federal government, I believe in local control.”

Burgum opposes a federal ban on abortions and supports the Dobbs decision that left the regulation of abortion to the states. He is personally pro-life but supports some exceptions to abortion term limits. As governor of North Dakota, he signed legislation (S.B. 2150) banning abortions throughout pregnancy with exceptions for rape and incest up to six weeks and in medical emergencies at any stage.

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.”

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.

Chris Christie: Leave the issue of abortion to the states.

"This should be determined by the 50 states. The issue of abortion’s not in the Constitution. And the Constitution says if it’s not explicitly said here, this power reverts to the states.”

Though he is open to the consideration of a federal term limit on abortion if “consensus” is reached, he primarily supports the states’ decision to regulate abortion. He supports exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.

Ron DeSantis: Supports a 15-week federal ban.

“I’ll be a pro-life president and I’ll come down on the side of life.”

In the first Republican primary debate, he expressed support for the states to regulate abortion, arguing that “I understand Wisconsin is going to do it differently than Texas.” Later, he shifted his stance, stating that “I think there is a federal interest [in abortion].” In the second Republican primary debate, he committed to a 15-week federal abortion ban. As governor, he signed a ban, S.B. 300, on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking up to 15 weeks. He has also signed legislation that expanded support for foster parents, extended postpartum eligibility for medicaid, and proposed permanent sales tax exemptions for baby supplies.

Vivek Ramaswamy: Leave the issue of abortion to the states.

“This is not an issue for the federal government. It is an issue for the states. I think we need to be explicit about that. If murder laws are handled at the state level, and abortion is a form of murder, the pro-life view, then it makes no sense for that to be the one federal law.”

Ramaswamy opposes a federal ban on abortion and supports the Dobbs decision that returned the issue of abortion to the states. He is personally pro-life. However, he has expressed support for state level abortion bans after 6 weeks, arguing that a “consistent principle on the front end” must be made. In addition to state level abortion bans, he has pushed for more policies that encourage adoption and better child care: “I’m pro-contraception. I’m pro-adoption. I’m pro-child care. I’m pro-more responsibility for men.”


This blog was written by Harry Ding, content intern (Center bias). It was reviewed and edited by Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), Malayna Bizier (Right bias), and Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias).