Apr 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump abortion timeline: Tracking his shifting views on the procedure

Donald Trump speaks to guests at a rally on April 02, 2024 in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Donald Trump speaks at a rally on April 2 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump on Monday formally announced his position on abortion rights, saying the issue should be left up to states to decide.

Why it matters: The announcement contrasts Trump's earlier hints that he would support a national abortion ban and risks angering anti-abortion rights groups who favor restrictions on the national level.

The latest: "My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land," Trump said in a video posted to Truth Social.

  • Trump declined to specify at how many weeks of pregnancy he supported banning abortion and reiterated his support for exceptions for rape, incest and life-threatening situations.
  • Trump's announcement drew swift backlash from the anti-abortion rights group, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which said it was "deeply disappointed" by the former president's stance.

Worth noting: The former president privately expressed support for a 16-week national abortion ban with exceptions in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening pregnancy complications, the New York Times reported in February.

Here's a timeline of Trump's shifting position on abortion over the years.

Trump's views before getting elected to office

In the years before he entered politics and throughout his 2016 campaign, Trump voiced an array of often contradicting positions on abortion.

  • Back in 1999, Trump told NBC News that he was "very pro-choice" though he caveated, "I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it ... I just believe in choice."
  • Yet during the first Republican presidential debate in Aug. 2015, Trump came out against abortion, saying he'd "evolved" on the issue after a friend of his had decided not to have the procedure and the resulting child was "a total superstar."
  • During a Feb. 2016 presidential debate, Trump said he would defund Planned Parenthood "because I'm pro-life" but noted the organization helps millions of women who are not pregnant, such as those diagnosed with cervical cancer.

State of play: During a March 2016 town hall, Trump said there "has to be some form of punishment" for women who get an abortion if the procedure is made illegal, the Washington Post reported.

  • Trump later put out a statement clarifying that the doctor or person performing the procedure should be "held legally responsible, not the woman," per the post.
  • Days later, Trump told CBS during an interview that the nation's abortion laws are "set" and that he "would've preferred states' rights."
  • Once again, his campaign issued a statement clarifying that, once elected, Trump would "change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn."
  • At an Oct. 2016 debate weeks before the election, Trump vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade.

During his presidency

While in office, Trump appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

  • During his 2019 State of the Union address, Trump called on Congress to ban late-term abortions.
  • Yet in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, Trump displayed some reticence to discuss abortion, AP reported.
  • During a Sept. 2020 debate with then-Democractic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Trump pushed back at Biden's claim that abortion rights were at stake in the election. "It's not on the ballot," Trump said, AP reported.

Trump's comments on abortion since leaving office

In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended federal protections for abortion.

  • Trump reacted to the ruling by crediting himself. "I delivered everything as promised," he said.

The big picture: Following Republicans' critical losses in the Nov. 2022 midterms, many Republicans — from Paul Ryan to Mitch McConnell — blame Trump for the GOP's poor showing.

  • In Jan. 2023, Trump pushed back at this view, saying Republicans' midterm losses were due to their poor handling of the "abortion issue."
  • At an April 2023 rally, Trump vowed "we'll get something done" on abortion if he is re-elected. He added that he would "look at" a 15-week abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham if Congress passed it.
  • "It could be state or it could be federal, I don't frankly care," Trump told NBC News during a Sept. 2023 interview when asked about abortion restrictions.

Go deeper: Trump says abortion should be left to states, doesn't endorse national ban

Go deeper