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Trump backed a federal abortion ban as president. Now, he says he wouldn't sign one

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives at the airport on Wednesday in Atlanta, Georgia. Trump is visiting Atlanta for a campaign fundraising event he is hosting.
Megan Varner
Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives at the airport on Wednesday in Atlanta, Georgia. Trump is visiting Atlanta for a campaign fundraising event he is hosting.

This week, Donald Trump disappointed abortion rights opponents by not mentioning a federal ban in his long-awaited abortion policy announcement.

Now, he's going further — telling reporters in Atlanta that he would not sign a federal ban, even if one came to his desk.

Responding to a shouted question about whether he would sign a ban if Congress passed one, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee shook his head and repeated "no" twice.

It's another twist in Trump's long history of shifting stances on abortion rights. As president, Trump supported a 20-week federal abortion ban, and in recent weeks has said he was open to 15 weeks.

Even before that, when he was running for president in 2016, at one point he said women seeking abortions should receive "some form of punishment."

In his remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Trump also addressed the Arizona Supreme Court's decision to allow an 1864 near-total ban to be enforced.

Asked if the state court went too far, Trump responded, "Yeah they did, and that will be straightened out."

He was also asked about the recent decision in Florida, his home state, to allow a 6-week ban to take effect. In response, Trump implied that he wants Arizona and Florida to loosen their abortion restrictions. But while criticizing those states' bans, he also said he supports states' rights to decide their own abortion policies.

"Now the states have it and the states are putting out what they want. It's the will of the people," he said. "So Florida's probably going to change, Arizona's going to definitely change, everybody wants that to happen."

Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, abortion rights have repeatedly won in statewide ballot measures. In addition, abortion has proven to motivate voters in state legislature elections. Both Florida and Arizona will likely see a question on abortion access on their ballots this fall.

With that in mind, the Biden campaign has been attacking Trump on abortion rights throughout this campaign. The Biden campaign released a statement in response to Trump's Wednesday remarks.

"Donald Trump owns the suffering and chaos happening right now, including in Arizona, because he proudly overturned Roe – something he called 'an incredible thing' and 'pretty amazing' just today," said communications director Michael Tyler.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.