How Donald Trump’s Abortion Stance Has Shifted over the Years

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Justice Amy Coney Barrett was the last justice Donald Trump appointed to the Supreme Court, and one of the conservative justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

After months of sending muddled signals on the issue of abortion and teasing an announcement about his stance, Donald Trump released a video Monday that said he thought states should decide abortion rights – even as he continued to take credit for appointing the Supreme Court justices who would go on to overturn Roe v. Wade. The statement was yet another pivot in the former president’s shifting stance on reproductive rights through the decades.

October 1999: He is ‘very pro-choice’

I’m very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still – I just believe in choice.

– NBC “Meet the Press” interview, Oct. 24, 1999

In this interview, Trump was asked if he would support a partial ban on abortion. He said he was “very pro-choice” even though he hated “the concept of abortion.”

In the same interview, Trump said he couldn’t comment on same-sex marriage and said that gay people serving in the military “would not disturb me,” citing his upbringing in New York City.

“And, again, it may be a little bit of a New York background, because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country. And, you know, I was raised in New York and grew up and work and everything else in New York City. But I am strongly for choice, and yet I hate the concept of abortion.”

Pressed again on whether he would ban abortion, Trump said he would not.

“I am pro-choice in every respect and as far as it goes, but I just hate it.”

January 2000: He ‘would indeed support a ban’

After the show, I consulted two doctors I respect and, upon learning more about this procedure, I have concluded that I would indeed support a ban.

– Donald Trump’s book “The America We Deserve,” published 2000

In his book “The America We Deserve,” published Jan. 15, 2000, Trump directly cites his “Meet the Press” interview from the previous year and writes that he has since changed his opinion on an abortion ban.

“I support a woman’s right to choose, for example, but I am uncomfortable with the procedures. When Tim Russert asked me on ‘Meet the Press’ if I would ban partial-birth abortion if I were president, my pro-choice instincts led me to say no.”

April 2011: He is ‘pro-life’

I am pro-life, but I changed my view a number of years ago.

– CBN News, April 2011

Trump says in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network that he is “pro-life” but that he changed his view partly because an unnamed friend of his came to him crying because his wife was pregnant and he didn’t want the baby.

“One of the reasons I changed, one of the primary reasons, a friend of mine, his wife was pregnant, in this case married … he didn’t really want the baby. And he was telling me this story. He was crying as he was telling me,” Trump said. “They ended up for some reason, amazingly, through luck, because they didn’t have the right timing – he ends up having the baby and the baby is the apple of his eye. He said it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him.”

March 2016: ‘There has to be some form of punishment’ for women who have abortions

There has to be some form of punishment.

– MSNBC town hall, March 30, 2016

In a heated exchange during a March 30, 2016, town hall, interviewer Chris Matthews repeatedly pressed then-Republican presidential candidate Trump – who declared he was “pro-life with exceptions” – on how he would enforce a ban on abortion if enacted.

“I have not determined what the punishment would be,” Trump told Matthews at one point. When asked if men would be held liable if a woman they impregnated had an abortion, Trump responded: “Different feelings, different people. I would say no.”

“Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no? As a principle?” Matthews asked.

“The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said.

“For the woman?” Matthews asked, after some additional back-and-forth.

“Yeah, there has to be some form,” Trump said.

After drawing criticism for his town hall comments, Trump issued a statement seeking to change who he thought should be punished.

“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” Trump stated. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

January 2018: Supports a federal ban on abortion past 20 weeks

I strongly support the House of Representatives’ ‘Pain-Capable’ bill, which would end painful, late-term abortions nationwide, and I call upon the Senate to pass this important law and send it to my desk for signing.

– Trump address to March for Life, Jan. 19, 2018

Addressing participants of the 45th annual March for Life from the White House, Trump said Roe v. Wade “resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws in the world.” He also voiced support for a House bill that would have made it a criminal offense for performing or attempting to perform an abortion on or after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

June 2022: Takes credit for overturning of Roe

Today’s decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.

– Trump statement, June 24, 2022

On the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Trump issued a statement that took credit for the decision, noting that he had nominated three of the justices – Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – who voted to overturn the right to abortion.

September 2023: Florida’s six-week abortion ban ‘a terrible mistake’

[DeSantis] was willing to sign … a six-week ban … I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.

– NBC “Meet the Press” interview, Sept. 17, 2023

Trump took a shot at his then-Republican presidential primary rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for signing a six-week abortion ban into law.

“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” Trump said.

Trump declined to say what time frame he thinks is appropriate for an abortion ban and instead insisted that he would “sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something, and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”

“Both sides are going to like me,” he added. “I’m going to come together with all groups, and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable.”

January 2024: ‘You have to win elections,’ appearing to acknowledge unpopularity of GOP abortion bans

We still have to win elections … a lot of [Republicans] have just been decimated in the election.

– Fox News town hall, Jan. 10, 2024

In a town hall, Trump again boasted about being the reason the Supreme Court overturned Roe after nearly 50 years. He also defended his criticism of statewide abortion bans, noting how politically unpopular restrictions on reproductive rights had been for Republicans.

“You’ve got to win elections. If you look at it, Ron DeSantis, I don’t know what he really believes because you never know with a politician, and he’s just another politician as far as I’m concerned. But his poll numbers have gone down to a level that he’s going to be out of the race very soon,” Trump said, referring to the GOP presidential primary. (DeSantis would end his campaign and endorse Trump less than two weeks later.)

Trump added that there had been Republicans who were “great on the issue” of abortion who had “just been decimated” in recent elections.

“We’re going to come up with something that people want and people like,” Trump said. “First of all, you have to go with your heart. You have to go with your heart first. Go with your heart, your mind, go with it. But you do also have to put in there a little bit – you have to win elections.”

March 2024: He would be open to 15-week ban

Seems to be 15 weeks, seems to be a number that people are agreeing at.

– 77 WABC “Sid & Friends in the Morning” interview, Mar. 19, 2024

Trump sent more muddled signals on the issue of abortion, saying in a radio interview that abortion bans must include exceptions because “you have to win elections” while also seeming to suggest that he was open to a 15-week abortion ban.

“Now people are … agreeing on 15 [weeks]. And I’m thinking, in terms of that – and it’ll come out to something that’s very reasonable,” Trump said on 77 WABC’s “Sid & Friends in the Morning.” “But people are really – even hard-liners are agreeing. Seems to be 15 weeks, seems to be a number that people are agreeing at. But I’ll make that announcement at the appropriate time.”

Trump did not clarify what kind of announcement he would make on the issue, nor did the interviewer ask follow-up questions. Trump’s comments followed reports that he favors a 16-week abortion ban, which quickly became the focus of Democratic attacks.

April 2024: Abortion rights should be left to the states

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 – in this case, the law of the state.

– Donald Trump video statement, April 8, 2024

After months of sending muddled signals on the issue of abortion, Trump announced in a video that he thought states should decide on abortion rights.

“Many states will be different, many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others, and that’s what they will be,” Trump said. “At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people. You must follow your heart or, in many cases, your religion or your faith. Do what’s right for your family, and do what’s right for yourself.”

Trump also declared that he “strongly” supported the availability of in vitro fertilization procedures, weeks after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered children, a move that sparked a national backlash for its threat to IVF.