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The Man Most Responsible for Ending Roe Worries That It Could Hurt His Party

The end of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling was the culmination of decades of work by Republicans and social conservatives — one that came about only after a three-times-married former New York Democrat who had once supported abortion rights helped muscle through three Supreme Judges of the court.

Publicly, former President Donald J. Trump proclaimed the Supreme Court ruling on Friday as a victory. But as he faces possible prosecution for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election and prepares for a likely 2024 presidential campaign, Mr Trump has privately told friends and advisers that the ruling “will be bad for Republicans.” .

When a draft of the decision was leaked in May, Mr. Trump began telling friends and advisers that it would infuriate suburban women, a group that helped tip the 2020 race for President Biden, and lead to a backlash against Republicans in the mid-term elections.

In other conversations, Mr. Trump has told people that measures such as Texas state law that bans most abortions after six weeks and allows citizens to file lawsuits against people who allow abortions are “so stupid,” according to one person with direct knowledge. of the discussions. The Supreme Court upheld the measure in December 2021.

For the first hours after the decision was made public on Friday, Mr. Trump reacted in a muted manner, a striking contrast to conservatives working in his administration, including former Vice President Mike Pence. Pence released a statement saying “life has won” while calling on abortion opponents to keep fighting “in every state in the country”.

For weeks prior to the ruling, Mr. Trump had been equally muted. In an interview with The New York Times in May, Mr. Trump raised eyebrows in response to a question about the pivotal role he had played in paving the way for Roe v. Wade’s turnaround.

“I never like to take credit for anything,” said Mr. Trump, who has spent his entire career putting his name on just about anything he can.

Pressured to describe his feelings about helping to put together a court that was about to erase the 1973 ruling, Mr. Trump declined to answer the question and instead focused on leaking the draft opinion.

“I don’t know what the decision is,” he said. “We read about something signed months ago. Nobody knows what that decision is. A design is a design.”

Early Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump issued a statement taking a round of victory, including clapping for sticking to his pick of nominees. All three of Mr. Trump’s appointees to the court — which he pushed through with help from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell — were in the majority in the 6-to-3 ruling. He left unspoken the fact that he has repeatedly attacked the court for failing to intervene on his behalf after losing the 2020 election.

“Today’s decision, the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions announced recently, have only been made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including the nomination and confirmation of three highly respected and strong constitutionalists to the United States. Supreme Court of the United States,” Trump said.

The former president also told Fox News, in an interview published after the decision Friday, that the court “followed the Constitution and returned rights when they should have been given a long time ago.” He added: “I think eventually this is something that will work for everyone.”

Republicans brace for a fight: A May memo from the Senate Republican National Committee, first reported by Axios, suggested GOP candidates are dealing with criticism from Democrats by highlighting “extreme and radical views” in support of late abortions and government funding for abortions, and suggest that their own views are based “on compassion and reason”.

While Mr Trump has remained silent on the matter in recent weeks, people close to him expect him to grow louder as he sees how clearly his right-wing base is responding and how easily he can point to it as something he’s let go. to happen. His advisers believe he can highlight the issue as he faces potential Republican challengers and sees signs that his own political base has shifted further to the right on vaccines and other issues.

Other potential candidates were much more vocal. mr. Pence has spent months talking about his desire to see Roe v. Wade come to an end and visit maternity centers. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another evangelical Christian considering a presidential campaign, wrote on Twitter after the draft opinion came out: “I pray for the turnaround of Roe v. Wade. Every human being, born and unborn, has a fundamental right to life, and it is our calling to guard and safeguard it.”

Most significantly from Mr. Trump’s perspective, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Republican who has expressed a desire to see some former Trump supporters as candidates for 2024, signed a bill this spring banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. .

Bob Vanderplaats, chairman of the Family Leader, a socially conservative political group based in Iowa, praised Mr Trump before the ruling came. “What he did as president is he went ahead with what he said he was going to do and appointed Supreme Court justices who were faithful to the Constitution,” said Mr. Vander Place.

Asked about Mr. Trump’s personal comments that the ruling would hurt Republicans, Mr. Vander Place replied, “I absolutely disagree with that.”

While Republicans in competing states and congressional districts have expressed some concern about the kind of backlash Trump has been telling people he fears, many pollsters say it’s too early to say how the issue will play out in the midterm elections.

A Gallup poll this month found that the proportion of Americans who identified as “pro-choice” rose to 55 percent after hovering between 45 and 50 percent for a decade. That sentiment was “the highest Gallup has measured since 1995,” while the 39 percent who identified as “pro-life” “was the lowest since 1996,” the polling agency said.

A survey conducted for CNN in May found that 66 percent of those polled said they believe Roe v. Wade should not be undone.

But anti-abortion activists who supported Mr Trump as president insist the ruling will be a political boon to Republicans, claiming polls asking voters specific questions about the measure indicate that.

“When pro-life Republicans go on the offensive to expose their opponents’ abortion extremism, life is a proven winning issue for the GOP,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, who supports female candidates against abortion.

Vulnerable as he is, Mr. Trump seems to have long had a special problem with the topic of abortion, which for years he supported as a right but said he abhorred. In 2011, while contemplating a presidential campaign as a Republican, he announced that he was not a proponent of abortion rights, but four years later he struggled to discuss the issue as a candidate.

“I know you’re against abortion,” CNN’s Jake Tapper told him in a June 2015 interview

“Right,” Trump replied. “I’m pro-choice.”

Mr. Tapper frowned. “You are pro-choice or pro-life?”

“I’m pro-life,” Mr. Trump quickly corrected himself. “My apologies.”

In March 2016, Mr. Trump said at an MSNBC event at City Hall that if the nation banned abortion — a change he supported — there should be “some form of punishment” for a woman who wishes to have an abortion. The comment set off a firestorm, which Mr Trump tried to quell by issuing two statements that only added to the confusion.

Two days later, on CBS, Mr. Trump said he wished abortion was left to the states, but federal laws “were enacted, and I think we should leave it that way.”

Officials with the Susan B. Anthony List said at the time that Mr. Trump had disqualified himself from the presidency. His campaign issued another clearance statement, saying he only meant the laws should remain in effect “until he is president”.

But in his third and final debate against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election, Mr. Trump made it clear that he believed he would run for two and a whopping three seats on the Supreme Court. And he explicitly promised, in a way other candidates never had, that Roe v. Wade would be quashed if he chose lawyers who shared his outspoken beliefs.

As president, however, Mr. Trump often wanted little to do with the issue.

Mr. Trump seemed to oscillate between fascination with and loathing the subject, noting how thorny it was and how divided the country was over abortion, and rubbing his hands when it came time to make decisions.

And he often preferred to postpone Mr. Pence, even at one point expressing hopes that Mr. Pence would cancel a trip to Rome, including an audience with the Pope, and represent the government instead. at the March for Life in Washington.

One of Mr. Trump’s supporters, Robert Jeffress, a Texas pastor, recalled having conversations with the former president about the “political complexity” of the issue, describing Mr Trump as an opponent of abortion, but also a “realist”.

“I heard him point out in the Oval Office that more than 60 percent of Americans are against the withdrawal of Roe, and that makes this a politically complex issue,” Jeffress said.

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