In 1999, Donald Trump identified as “very pro-choice” and stated that he would not ban even partial-birth abortions. He now identifies as pro-life. However, when pressed to clarify his views, Trump articulated a position indistinguishable from current abortion law as established by Roe v. Wade.
The following exchange occurred on January 24, 2015, in an interview with Mark Halperin at the Iowa Freedom Summit. (The full video is available here.)
Halperin: Abortion even early in a pregnancy is murder to you?
Trump: No. What I’m saying is this: with caveats – life of the mother, incest, rape – that’s where I stand. So I’m pro-life, but with the caveats. …
Halperin: Say a woman is pregnant and is not in any of those exception categories, and she chooses to have an abortion.
Trump: It depends when. It depends when.
Based on these statements, Trump appears to believe that abortion should be legal for any reason up to a certain unspecified point in the pregnancy. (Unfortunately, Halperin did not press Trump for more detail.) After this unspecified point, Trump believes abortion should only be legal in some circumstances.
This is precisely the current state of abortion law in the United States. Roe v. Wade declares abortion legal for any reason up to the ambiguous point of fetal “viability.” After this point, states can prohibit abortion unless the broadly defined health of the mother is at stake. Perhaps Trump would want to draw the line sometime before viability, but he appears to have no fundamental disagreement with the current state of abortion law in our nation.
In fact, Trump’s stance on abortion is possibly even more permissive than Roe v. Wade. The only exception Roe v. Wade specifies after viability is the mother’s health and life. Trump, however, supports two additional exceptions: incest and rape. Nothing in his statement suggests that these exceptions are valid only before viability.
Despite his stance on abortion, Trump remains the current front-runner in the GOP presidential primary race. The latest poll from Fox News reports that Trump is supported by 39% of Republican primary voters. Furthermore, even among evangelical Christians, who are typically opposed to abortion, Trump leads. According to the poll, in the past month, Trump has jumped from 25% to 39% among white evangelicals.