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Biden, Trump, DeSantis chart different paths on abortion one year after Dobbs leak

TThe Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision continues to reshape American politics a year after an infamous leak alerted the public that major changes to abortion policy could be coming.

President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and presumptive challenger Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) have taken widely divergent positions on abortion, each betting that theirs will win the day with voters.


“Congress must restore the right that was taken away in Roe v. Wade and protect Roe v. Wade,” Biden said to applause in February’s State of the Union address. “It gives every woman that constitutional right. The vice president and I are doing everything we can to protect access to reproductive health and safeguard patient safety.”

Dobbs’s majority opinion leaked on May 2, 2022, and was upheld by the Supreme Court the following month, ending a 50-year battle between conservatives and sending abortion policy to the states. This has created a new political dynamic not tried in presidential politics since 1972, with the executive branch now able to intervene directly.

Biden has taken the Democratic Party’s pro-abortion-rights stance over the past few decades, articulated in the midterm campaign, and Vice President Kamala Harris, in particular, has been unfazed by abortion rights since made the decision.

But the perspective is more complicated on the right.

Trump, who forged an uneasy alliance with evangelicals en route to victory in 2016, has since kept his distance by adopting a hands-off “states’ right” stance.

Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Joe Biden.


This has landed him in hot water with the anti-abortion community, which includes many evangelicals.

Susan B. Anthony, America Pro-Life President Marjorie Dannenfelser called Trump’s position “morally indefensible,” saying, “We will oppose any presidential candidate who refuses to accept at least one standard 15-week national mandate to stop painful late-term abortions while allowing states to enact more protections.”

Similarly, Live Action president Lila Rose said Trump “disqualified” himself with the position. He’s probably betting it won’t hurt him with primary voters, argues Colby College politics professor Sandy Maisel, and he’ll be more favorable in the general election.

However, Maisel believes this strategy could backfire.

“In 2017 and 2021, I talked to a lot of evangelicals about why they were still for Trump, and it was the issue of abortion,” he said. “Once he gets on the debate stage, I think he’s going to be on the abortion issue. He can’t be any less pro-life than the other candidates in his constituents.”

Maisel also says Dobbs’ decision benefits Democrats in general more than Republicans, citing polls that say his position is shared by 60 percent of voters and a lack of consensus among Republican candidates. Trump himself has blamed Dobbs for Republicans’ poor showing in the 2022 midterm elections.

DeSantis, by contrast, has taken a hard line, signing a six-week abortion ban with the help of a supermajority in Florida GOP. The White House immediately denounced the move, but it could benefit DeSantis politically as he tries to make up an electoral deficit with Trump.

“DeSantis can use this to pick on all the crazy people who support Trump,” said Florida Democratic strategist Sasha Tirador. “It’s one thing to be conservative, it’s another thing to be anti-abortion. Then there are the extreme lunatics. Unfortunately, you can’t win a primary without them in the Republican Party.”

But Tirador predicts the support will backfire on Republicans in the general election, saying even many Republican voters don’t support the six-week abortion ban.


DeSantis could theoretically pivot to the center after securing the nomination, saying the issue should be up to the states and not the federal government, but that could risk alienating both moderates and the conservative base.

A Reuters and Ipsos poll conducted in April found that half of respondents strongly or somewhat oppose a national six-week abortion ban, including 44 percent of Republicans. According to the same poll, 43% of Republicans were less likely to vote for a politician who limited access to abortion.

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