Presidential candidate Nikki Haley would not say whether she would sign a bill banning abortions of babies who had a heartbeat, pointing instead to President Joe Biden’s administration’s extreme positions on abortion.
While her reference to the Biden administration’s extremism may have been an attempt to follow the messaging strategies of top pro-life groups, Haley repeatedly drew on the the importance of consensus for federal abortion legislation.
“What can we all agree on?” she asked during a CNN town hall with Jake Tapper. “I think we can all agree on banning late-term abortions. I think we can all agree on encouraging adoptions and making sure those foster kids feel more love, not less. I think we can agree on doctors and nurses who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t have to perform them. I think we can agree on the fact that contraception should be accessible. And I think we can all come together and say that any woman who has an abortion shouldn’t be jailed or given the death penalty. Can’t we start there?”
Her remarks followed on the heels of two Republicans, Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, signing bills banning abortions of unborn babies with detectable heartbeats. This made South Carolina the second early nominating state to pass a heartbeat bill, since Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the state’s heartbeat law in 2018.
Former President Donald Trump drew backlash from pro-life groups for suggesting that the pro-life movement found Florida’s new law “too harsh,” leading to Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats warning Trump: “No, Mr. former President, many in the pro-life community do not believe saving babies is too harsh. Joining Ron DeSantis is Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds in leading on life. The Iowa Caucus door just flung wide open.”
Tapper pointed out to Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, that her successor had just signed this new heartbeat bill.
“You say that you would support a federal ban in theory but there aren’t the 60 votes because there isn’t a national consensus,” he said, to which Haley responded, “I think we have to say, ‘Where are they all going to come together? What can we get 60 votes on, and then go for?’”
“If a six-week ban theoretically came to your desk, would you sign it?” Tapper pressed her.
“I will answer that when you ask Kamala and Biden if they would agree to 37 weeks, 38 weeks, 39 weeks,” she responded, referring to the president and Vice President Kamala Harris. “Then I’ll answer your question.”
“No one asked them that!” she emphasized. “No one asked them how late they are willing to go. What I’m saying is, why go and put the American people through that. Why do that? Why not talk about what’s the truth?”
Biden and Harris have refused to specifically say where they draw the line on abortion, allowing their opponents to insist that they support unlimited abortion up until birth. Biden and Harris have not denied this claim, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Signal on this point.
Tapper himself acknowledged that Biden and Harris have been “pretty clear” that they “don’t support any restrictions” on abortion.
“They said abortion up until the time of birth,” Haley said.
“I don’t think that’s the language they used,” Tapper said, “but yes, theoretically they don’t support restrictions, they say it should be up to a woman, her doctor, and her God. That’s what they say.”
Last week, The Daily Signal first reported that pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down had launched an ad campaign accusing Trump of splitting from the pro-life movement on abortion. The ad drew on Reynolds’ support for her state’s heartbeat bill and targeted the former president as he spoke on the ground in Iowa.
While Trump’s recent remarks have provoked concerns from pro-life groups that he does not support strong legislation protecting life, he has previously been heralded as the most pro-life president in American history—and he will always have the lasting legacy of overturning Roe v. Wade.
Trump also made history as the first president to attend the national March for Life in person, appointed a slew of pro-life judges throughout his time as president, signed an executive order protecting infants born alive through botched abortions, significantly cut Planned Parenthood’s funding, and more.
DeSantis signed Florida’s heartbeat bill into law in April, banning most abortions if the unborn baby has a heartbeat. Some Republicans have suggested that DeSantis’ signing of the law would destroy his chances on the national stage, but the move was widely applauded by pro-life groups.
The bill signing followed controversy over Trump’s midterm-elections abortion analysis, when the former president suggested that abortion tanked GOP performances last year.
“It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms,” Trump said in a Truth Social post in early January. “I was 233-20! It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters.”
“Also, the people that pushed so hard, for decades, against abortion, got their wish from the U.S. Supreme Court, & just plain disappeared, not to be seen again,” added the former president, who has not responded to requests for comment.
His remarks prompted concerns that GOP leaders would avoid discussing abortion during subsequent elections. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America issued a statement at the time noting that “the approach to winning on abortion in federal races, proven for a decade is this: State clearly the ambitious consensus pro-life position and contrast that with the extreme view of Democrat opponents.”
On April 20, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung further startled pro-life groups by telling The Washington Post that Trump “believes that the Supreme Court, led by the three Justices which he supported, got it right when they ruled this [abortion] an issue that should be decided at the State level.”
In early May, Trump told The Messenger of Florida’s heartbeat bill: “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.”
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