Trump Addresses Evangelicals Amid Abortion Debate

Former President Donald Trump's address to influential evangelicals highlights a complex intersection of faith, politics, and the contentious issue of abortion ahead of the 2024 election.

Published June 23, 2024 - 00:06am

9 minutes read
United States
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Former President Donald Trump returned to an influential gathering of evangelical conservatives in Washington on Saturday to stump for their support a year after taking credit for the fall of Roe v. Wade at the same conference.

His ninth address at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference came just days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the abortion doctrine, and Mr. Trump spent time reminding the crowd that he was the one who appointed the justices who were key in reversing the decades-old law.

Trump's historical stance on abortion, including his reluctance to fully endorse a national ban, diverges from the views of many in the evangelical community, a crucial segment of his base. Despite his role in appointing three Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, Trump argues that supporting a national ban could be politically detrimental for Republicans.

Trump's balancing act reflects broader Republican concerns about navigating the complex political landscape surrounding abortion ahead of the 2024 election. Ralph Reed, founder and chair of the Christian organization, lauded Mr. Trump's appointment of "not one, not two, but three conservative justices to the Supreme Court" that led to the eventual fall of Roe v. Wade in 2021.

Mr. Trump's remarks also came a week after a pair of closed-door meetings with congressional Republicans where he urged them to change their messaging about abortion on the campaign trail and stick to the script of making it an issue that voters would weigh in on. Nailing the rhetoric on abortion could make or break Republicans' chances of winning majorities in the House and Senate while Democrats brand them as total-ban extremists.

Despite the abortion policy divide, Faith & Freedom Coalition members appreciate Trump's contributions and give him a lot of flexibility in his positions. "He did more for the pro-life and pro-family cause than any president we've ever had in the history of the movement," said Ralph Reed.

Mr. Trump made sure to draw a sharp contrast between his position on abortion and Democrats, accusing President Biden of weaponizing the Justice Department to go after anti-abortion activists and labeling Democrats as the extremists in the abortion debate.

"If the radical Democratic extremists get their way they will have a federal law for abortion to rip the baby out of the womb in the seventh, eighth and ninth month and even execute the baby after birth," said Trump.

Trump's stated opposition to signing a nationwide ban on abortion and his reluctance to detail some of his views on the issue are at odds with many members of the evangelical movement, a key part of Trump's base that's expected to help him turn out voters in his November rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

While Trump nominated three of the Supreme Court justices who overturned a federally guaranteed right to abortion, he has argued supporting a national ban would hurt Republicans politically. About two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal, according to polling last year by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs.

The crowd huddled in the cavernous ballroom greeted the former president with adulation and chants of "U.S.A, U.S.A," often interrupting his speech to shower him with praise. At one point he urged the crowd to stop chanting and vote. "Don't give me any of the 'U.S.A.,' go out and vote," Mr. Trump said.

Former President Donald Trump returned to an influential gathering of evangelical conservatives in Washington on Saturday to stump for their support a year after taking credit for the fall of Roe v. Wade at the same conference.

His ninth address at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference came just days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the abortion doctrine, and Mr. Trump spent time reminding the crowd that he was the one who appointed the justices who were key in reversing the decades-old law.

Trump's historical stance on abortion, including his reluctance to fully endorse a national ban, diverges from the views of many in the evangelical community, a crucial segment of his base. Despite his role in appointing three Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, Trump argues that supporting a national ban could be politically detrimental for Republicans.

Trump's balancing act reflects broader Republican concerns about navigating the complex political landscape surrounding abortion ahead of the 2024 election. Ralph Reed, founder and chair of the Christian organization, lauded Mr. Trump's appointment of "not one, not two, but three conservative justices to the Supreme Court" that led to the eventual fall of Roe v. Wade in 2021.

Mr. Trump's remarks also came a week after a pair of closed-door meetings with congressional Republicans where he urged them to change their messaging about abortion on the campaign trail and stick to the script of making it an issue that voters would weigh in on. Nailing the rhetoric on abortion could make or break Republicans' chances of winning majorities in the House and Senate while Democrats brand them as total-ban extremists.

Despite the abortion policy divide, Faith & Freedom Coalition members appreciate Trump's contributions and give him a lot of flexibility in his positions. "He did more for the pro-life and pro-family cause than any president we've ever had in the history of the movement," said Ralph Reed.

Mr. Trump made sure to draw a sharp contrast between his position on abortion and Democrats, accusing President Biden of weaponizing the Justice Department to go after anti-abortion activists and labeling Democrats as the extremists in the abortion debate.

"If the radical Democratic extremists get their way they will have a federal law for abortion to rip the baby out of the womb in the seventh, eighth and ninth month and even execute the baby after birth," said Trump.

Trump's stated opposition to signing a nationwide ban on abortion and his reluctance to detail some of his views on the issue are at odds with many members of the evangelical movement, a key part of Trump's base that's expected to help him turn out voters in his November rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

While Trump nominated three of the Supreme Court justices who overturned a federally guaranteed right to abortion, he has argued supporting a national ban would hurt Republicans politically. About two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal, according to polling last year by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs.

The crowd huddled in the cavernous ballroom greeted the former president with adulation and chants of "U.S.A, U.S.A," often interrupting his speech to shower him with praise. At one point he urged the crowd to stop chanting and vote. "Don't give me any of the 'U.S.A.,' go out and vote," Mr. Trump said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Trump endeavored to solidify his hold on the evangelical vote by reiterating his commitment to their values. He highlighted his administration's moves to support religious freedom, including the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which banned religious organizations from endorsing political candidates. He also noted his administration's efforts to secure funding for religious schools and to protect faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

As Trump courts the evangelical vote, he faces competition from potential 2024 Republican contenders who also vie for the support of this influential group. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley have all made moves to position themselves favorably with religious conservatives. They highlight their own records on social issues, such as advocating for "pro-life" policies, protecting religious freedom, and opposing efforts to extend LGBTQ rights.

The Faith & Freedom Coalition conference also shed light on the broader conservative strategy leading up to the mid-term elections. With the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade and ongoing cultural debates, the conference emphasized the importance of mobilizing evangelical voters. Strategies included grassroots organizing, voter registration drives, and targeted messaging aimed at key swing states.

The dynamic within the Republican Party regarding abortion is a reflection of a larger national conversation. Many states have moved swiftly to restrict abortion access, while advocates on the other side push for federal protections. The Biden administration, in response, has emphasized the protection of reproductive rights as a cornerstone of its platform, contrasting sharply with the restrictive moves seen in conservative states.

In this polarized environment, both major parties are strategizing intensely to engage and activate their voter bases. For Republicans, the challenge lies in balancing the hardline conservative stances that energize their core supporters with the more moderate views held by a significant portion of the electorate. It's a delicate dance as they navigate these sensitive topics, attempting to maintain unity within their ranks.

As the countdown to the 2024 election continues, the discourse surrounding abortion and other social issues will likely intensify. Trump's latest address at the Faith & Freedom Coalition is a significant indicator of how he intends to approach these issues, seeking both to galvanize his base and to appeal to the broader public sentiment. The coming months will reveal whether this strategy will resonate with voters or further highlight the divides within the Republican Party.

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