Roe v. Wade Live: Thousands of people protest against the end of the constitutional right to abortion

The end of the landmark Roe v. Wade was the culmination of decades of work by Republicans and social conservatives — work that only came after a former New York Democrat who once supported abortion rights helped make pass three Supreme Court justices.

Publicly, former President Donald J. Trump on Friday heralded the Supreme Court’s decision ending federal abortion protections as a victory. Yet as he faces prosecution for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and prepares for a likely 2024 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has privately told friends and advisers that the decision will be ” bad for Republicans.

When a draft copy of the decision was leaked in May, Mr. Trump began telling friends and advisers that it would anger suburban women, a group that helped swing the race from 2020 to President Biden, and would lead to a backlash against Republicans midterm in November. elections.

In other conversations, Mr. Trump told people that measures like the Texas state law banning most abortions after six weeks and allowing citizens to sue people who allow abortions are “so stupid,” according to someone with direct knowledge of the discussions. . The Supreme Court let the measure stand in December 2021.

For the first few hours after the decision was made public on Friday, Mr. Trump was muted in response, a stark contrast to conservatives who worked in his administration, including former Vice President Mike Pence. Mr Pence released a statement saying ‘Life has won’ as he called on abortion opponents to keep fighting ‘in every state across the country’.

Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

For weeks before the decision, Mr. Trump had been similarly silent. In an interview with The New York Times in May, Mr. Trump voiced a reluctance to raise his eyebrows in response to a question about the pivotal role he played in paving the way for Roe v. Wade.

“I never like to take credit for anything,” said Trump, who has spent his career putting his name to almost anything he can.

Pressed to describe his feelings for helping bring together a tribunal that was set to overturn the 1973 ruling, Mr Trump declined to engage the issue and instead focused on leaking the draft notice .

“I don’t know what the decision is,” he said. “We read something that was drawn months ago. Nobody knows what this decision is. A draft is a draft.

Early Friday afternoon, Mr Trump released a statement taking a victory lap, including applauding himself for sticking to his pick of nominees. Mr Trump’s three court appointees – whom he pushed through with the help of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader – had a 6-3 majority in the decision. He did not say the fact that he has repeatedly attacked the court for not intervening on his behalf after losing the 2020 election.

Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

“Today’s decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, as well as other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised. , including the nomination and confirmation of three highly respected and strong constitutional scholars in the United States Supreme Court,” Mr. Trump said.

The former president also told Fox News, in an interview published after Friday’s ruling, that the court was “following the Constitution and returning rights when they should have been granted a long time ago.” He added: “I think ultimately it’s something that will work for everyone.”

Republicans are bracing for a fight: A memo in May from the Republican Senate National Committee, first reported by Axios, suggested that GOP candidates address criticism from Democrats by highlighting “extreme and radical views” in favor of late-term abortions and government funding for abortions, and suggesting that their own opinions are based “on compassion and reason”.

While Mr Trump has remained silent on the issue in recent weeks, those close to him expect him to become more vocal as he watches how clearly his right-wing base reacts and how easily he can name him as something he made happen. His advisers believe he can highlight the problem as he faces potential Republican challengers and sees signs that his own political base has shifted farther to the right on vaccines and other issues.

Other potential candidates have been much more vocal. Mr. Pence has spent months talking about his desire to see Roe v. Wade to end and visit pregnancy centers. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another evangelical Christian considering a presidential campaign, wrote on Twitter after the draft advisory was posted: “I pray for the cancellation of Roe v. Wade. Every human being, born and unborn, has a fundamental right to life, and it is our duty to protect and guarantee it.

More importantly from Mr. Trump’s perspective, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, the Republican whom a number of former Mr. Trump supporters have expressed interest in seeing as the 2024 nominee, signed a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader, an Iowa-based socially conservative political group, praised Mr Trump before the ruling was handed down. “What he’s done as president is he’s followed through on what he said he was going to do and appointed Supreme Court justices that were true to the Constitution,” said Mr. Vander Plaats.

Asked about Mr Trump’s private remarks that the decision would hurt Republicans, Mr Vander Plaats replied: “I would vehemently disagree with that.

Indeed, while Republicans in competitive states and congressional districts have expressed some concern over the kind of backlash Mr. Trump has told people he fears, many pollsters say it’s too early. to say how the issue will play out in the midterm elections.

A Gallup survey this month found that the share of Americans identifying as “pro-choice” had risen to 55% after hovering between 45% and 50% for a decade. That sentiment was “the highest Gallup has measured since 1995”, while the 39% who identified as “pro-life” was “the lowest since 1996”, the polling firm said.

Credit…Shuran Huang for The New York Times

A May survey for CNN found that 66% of respondents said they believed Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be canceled.

But anti-abortion activists who have backed Mr Trump as president insist the decision will be a political boon for Republicans and have argued that polls in which voters are asked specific questions about the measure l ‘indicate.

“When pro-life Republicans go on the offensive to expose the extremism of their abortion opponents, life is a proven winning issue for the GOP,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. , which supports anti-abortion candidates.

Talkative as he is, Mr. Trump has long seemed to have a particular difficulty broaching the subject of abortion, which he has for years championed as a right but has personally said he abhors. In 2011, while considering a presidential campaign as a Republican, he announced that he did not support abortion rights, but found it difficult to discuss the issue as a four-year-old candidate. later.

“I know you’re opposed to abortion,” CNN’s Jake Tapper told her in a June 2015 interview.

“Okay,” Trump replied. “I’m pro-choice.”

Mr. Tapper frowned. “Are you pro-choice or pro-life?

“I am pro-life,” Mr. Trump quickly corrected himself. “I am sorry.”

In March 2016, Trump said at an MSNBC town hall event that if the nation banned abortion — a change he supported — there should be “some form of punishment” for a woman seeking to abort. The remark sparked a firestorm, which Mr Trump tried to quell by issuing two statements that only added to the confusion.

Two days later, on CBS, Mr. Trump said he wanted abortion to be left to the states, but that the federal laws were “set, and I think we have to leave it at that.”

List officials Susan B. Anthony said at the time that Mr. Trump had disqualified himself for the presidency. His campaign issued a clean-up statement again, saying he only meant the laws should stay in place “until he’s president.”

Yet in his third and final debate against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election, Mr. Trump signaled his belief that he would have two and up to three Supreme Court seats up for grabs. And he explicitly promised, in a way other candidates had never done, that when he chose jurists who shared his stated beliefs, Roe v. Wade would be canceled.

As president, however, Mr. Trump often wanted little to do with the matter.

Mr. Trump seemed to oscillate between fascination and revulsion at the topic, noting the thorniness of it and how divided the country was on abortion, and wringing his hands when making decisions.

Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

And he often preferred to defer to Mr Pence, even at one point expressing hope that Mr Pence would cancel a trip to Rome, including an audience with the Pope, and instead represent the administration at the March. for life in Washington.

One of Mr Trump’s supporters, Robert Jeffress, a Texas pastor, recalled having discussions with the former president about the “political complexities” of the issue, describing Mr Trump as an opponent of the abortion but also a “realist”.

“I heard him point out in the Oval Office that over 60% of Americans are against Roe’s repeal, and that makes it a politically complex issue,” Mr. Jeffress said.

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