Though DeSantis has yet to officially announce, the Florida governor is widely seen as Trump’s top adversary in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. The two likely competitors have traded barbs for months, working to distinguish themselves to Republican voters who will decide who faces a vulnerable President Joe Biden in the general election.
“He has to do what he has to do,” Trump told The Messenger when asked about Florida’s new abortion law. “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing. But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh.”
Trump avoided taking a firm stand on policy beyond saying he is a “believer in the exceptions,” listing off the life of the mother, rape, and incest. He did not say whether he thought a six-week abortion ban went too far.
He was quick to tout his own bonafides on the issue, however.
“For 50 years, they’ve been trying to get rid of Roe v. Wade. I was able to do it. Nobody else could have done that but me. And I was able to do it [by nominating] three excellent judges on the Justices of the Supreme Court,” he said. “What it did more than anything else is it gave us a tremendous power of negotiation, which we didn’t have, the pro-life movement, a tremendous power of negotiation. … Now the pro-life movement has the power to negotiate a deal that’s acceptable for them.”
The pro-life movement is reorganizing after it suffered a slate of defeats in 2022 in states such as Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Montana. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe and the resulting backlash left the pro-life movement more politically unsure of itself than it has been in decades. Pro-life politicians and activists, now freed from the restrictions on lawmaking imposed by Roe, have to strike a balance between pursuing the ideal and attaining what is possible.
Republican voters tend to favor more restrictions on abortion. An April Marist poll found that 32% of Republican voters support banning abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Another 28% of Republicans favor even stricter laws. The same poll found that 31% of independents support outlawing abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, and nearly the same number, 29%, favor legal abortion through the first three months of the pregnancy.
Democrats were far more permissive, according to the poll. Nearly four in ten Democrats support abortion at any time during a pregnancy.
Like Trump, DeSantis has not staked a position for the federal government on abortion.
DeSantis signed his latest abortion measure into law in April, saying in a statement, “We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida.” He signed the six-week ban into law almost a year after enacting a 15-week abortion ban prior to the fall of Roe.