Jun 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump speaks to Christian group that wants to "eradicate" abortion

Donald Trump, wearing a blue suit and red cap while on a red carpet, applauds a group of supporters at a rally.

Former President Trump greets supporters at a rally Sunday in Las Vegas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Former President Trump on Monday told a Christian group that has vowed to "eradicate" abortion that if he's re-elected, "you're going to make a comeback like no other group."

Driving the news: That was about as bold as Trump got, however — his comments to the pastors and churchgoers of the Danbury Institute were brief, pre-taped and did not include the word "abortion."

  • It was the latest sign that Trump — who has often bragged about appointing three conservative Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade — seems to have lowered the volume when talking about abortion.
  • Many GOP candidates are doing that this year, after several post-Roe elections in which voters have punished Republicans and rewarded Democrats who favor abortion rights.

On Monday, Trump didn't even take credit for overturning Roe, saying simply: "We've done things that nobody thought were possible to have gotten done."

  • His remarks — in which he mentioned "protecting innocent life" just once — stood in stark contrast with the overall tenor of an event in which other speakers called on state legislators to "punish evil (abortion)" and "abolish abortion completely."

Between the lines: Trump's message here reflected his strategy of appearing by video or calling into events to show support to groups with fringe positions — without actually appear publicly on stage with their leaders.

What they're saying: Several speakers and attendees told Axios they're concerned that Trump wants to leave abortion limits to the states rather than pressing for a national ban.

  • Trump has said exactly that.
  • "I'm concerned about his position because I'm pro-life. We're either all pro-life or we're not. I don't think he fully, totally understands. We are 100% pro-life and he's thinking he may lose too many votes," evangelist Tim Lee told Axios.
  • Even so, Lee added: "He's still the absolute best candidate."

But Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, went a step further, saying Trump's abortion stance may jeopardize his standing among conservative Christians.

  • For Mohler, victory for the pro-life movement means the "elimination of the murder of the unborn, at every stage of life or fertilization."

The intrigue: Trump has not yet taken a position on the abortion pill, which drew widespread consensus at the forum as the anti-abortion movement's "next frontier."

  • "Any woman or girl sitting in your church pew can get online and get that pill regimen in her mailbox in several days. So the urgency to talk about this is greater than ever," said Julie Scott Emmons, South regional director of government affairs for the Texas anti-abortion group Human Coalition.
  • The pill "is a state and federal issue. We're engaging on both fronts. We do believe the abortion pill is the next frontier," David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council told Axios.

What they're saying: President Biden's campaign seized on the chance to link Trump to the Danbury Institute, calling its members' beliefs out of the mainstream.

  • "If you want to know who Trump will fight for in a second term, look at who he's spending his time speaking to: anti-abortion extremists who call abortion 'child sacrifice' and want to 'eradicate' abortion 'entirely,' " campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said in a statement.
  • Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said Trump "is committed to addressing groups with diverse opinions on all of the issues."

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of David Closson's name.

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