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Donald Trump has no idea what to do on abortion

No modern presidency has been as consequential for the antiabortion movement as Donald Trump’s. And perhaps no present-day politician appears as uncertain about what to do about the issue now as Donald Trump.

Confirmation that voters in Trump’s home state of Florida will soon vote on whether to enshrine abortion rights into law — and whether to effectively veto Gov. Ron DeSantis’s and the state GOP’s six-week abortion ban — arrived this week. Similar questions could be on the ballot in many other states as Trump seeks a second stint in the White House.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee has responded to this development with all the political certainty of a college freshman running for class president. And his hemming and hawing — even after effectively locking up the Republican nomination — speaks volumes about how much this sudden liability of an issue looms over the GOP’s 2024 hopes.

Trump’s campaign initially put out a statement Monday saying merely, “President Trump supports preserving life but has also made clear that he supports states’ rights, because he supports the voters’ right to make decisions for themselves.”

It’s great to support the democratic process — something that isn’t always a given with Trump — but that statement basically says nothing about his own view on the issue at hand. And when asked for more specificity Tuesday about Florida’s six-week ban, Trump played a familiar card: I’ll tell you later.

“We’ll be making a statement next week on abortion,” Trump said.

Translation: I really don’t want to talk about this, and I need to figure out my position.

It’s a lot like when Trump spent the better part of five years promising a health-care plan that was always just around the corner — often “two weeks” away. We’ll see if this plan proves that elusive.

Just as it’s a lot easier to say “repeal Obamacare” than to put forward your own plan to be picked apart, it’s a lot easier to say “overturn Roe v. Wade” than it is to delineate what restrictions should be in place after that.

And his stalling was merely the latest evidence of Trump’s remarkable uncertainty when it comes to the new abortion rights paradigm:

In April 2023, Trump declined to weigh in on Florida’s six-week ban. His campaign instead said he supported exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, and added it was “an issue that should be decided at the State level.”The next week, he offered a thoroughly equivocal promise: “We’ll get something done where everyone is going to be very satisfied. I think we’ll get it done on some level, it could be on different levels, but we’re going to get it done. … We will get that taken care of.”A leading antiabortion group soon called Trump’s comment that this was a state issue “morally indefensible” and said he must support a federal 15-week ban. It soon met with him and warmed to his candidacy, despite no indication he had taken its litmus-test position. Neither Trump nor the group elaborated.In September, Trump called six-week bans “terrible” — a shot at his then-primary opponent DeSantis (R). But pressed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump repeatedly punted on both the time frame and state vs. federal restrictions. “What’s going to happen is you’re going to come up with a number of weeks or months. You’re going to come up with a number that’s going to make people happy,” he said, adding: “It could be state or it could be federal. I don’t frankly care.”In January, a woman at a Fox News town hall urged Trump not to “compromise” on abortion. Trump provided no clarity on his position, but he did say four times that the GOP needs to “win elections” — the implication being that it shouldn’t alienate voters by being too extreme.As of February, Trump was telling advisers that he liked a 16-week federal abortion ban, according to the New York Times. One said Trump liked that number not because of anything specific to the gestation process but because, “It’s even. It’s four months.”In late February, Trump floated 15 weeks but suggested it should be a state issue. “More and more I’m hearing about 15 weeks, and I haven’t decided yet,” he told Sean Hannity on Fox News. “Also, we got it back to the states where it belongs.”Trump last month again floated 15 weeks, but suggested it might be a federal ban, saying “maybe we could bring the country together on that issue. … Fifteen weeks seems to be a number that people are agreeing at. But I’ll make that announcement at the appropriate time.”

In sum, it’s been nearly two years since the Supreme Court opened up this issue by overturning Roe. Trump has been asked for a year what his specific position is and hasn’t enunciated one. He keeps providing mixed signals on whether this should be a federal issue at all. And now he won’t even say whether he supports a six-week state ban that less than seven months ago he called “terrible.”

Of course, it’s no secret what’s really going on here. Trump fears this issue; he has repeatedly suggested that Republicans lose elections by going too extreme on it.

“It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters,” he posted on Truth Social after Republicans’ underwhelming 2022 election results.

Trump clearly doesn’t want that to happen to him. But it’s not as if he can spend the next seven months punting on this issue. And the fact that he still doesn’t have a good, ready-made answer a month after wrapping up the GOP nomination suggests that perhaps there just isn’t one.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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