Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. once said

May I stress the need for courageous, intelligent, and dedicated leadership…. Leaders of sound integrity. Leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with justice. Leaders not in love with money, but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause. God give us leaders. A time like this demands great souls with pure hearts and ready hands.”

Today, the United States is in great need of the leaders which Mr. King described as we battle with abortion rights and the lack of love they sprouted from. Frank Pavone wrote in his book Abolishing Abortion that “We put our leaders in places of authority so they can carry out the moral law in regard to fundamental human rights and the protection of the common good as outlined in our founding documents.” 

As the 2024 Presidential Election nears, we must ensure that the leader we vote for aligns with justice. Unfortunately, however, because abortion has become such a contentious and muddled issue in the public square, even among Republicans, it can be difficult to know exactly what the Republican candidates believe about the topic — especially since division is riddled among them concerning what bans and policies they will or will not support. The New York Times has reported that “Republicans are struggling to adjust to a political environment in which an issue that motivated their base for decades has become a serious general-election liability.”

How can we, the pro-life generation, ensure that we choose a leader who has proven to be one of integrity and care concerning the preborn? The following is part two of a pro-life guide of the Republican candidates running for the 2024 presidential election. To read part 2 and see where the other candidates, such as Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Chris Christie, and Vivek Ramaswamy, stand on abortion, click HERE.

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump has previously called himself the most pro-life president in American history. The New York Times has pointed out that it is probable that Trump is most responsible for the current state of abortion access in the country compared to other Republicans. CNN has also described him as having “paved the way for the undoing of federal abortion rights protections.”

Donald Trump appointed three of the six Supreme Court judges who overturned Roe v. Wade last summer: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. CNN reported, “Trump’s appointment of three conservative Supreme Court justices paved the way to the reversal of the 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights across the United States through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.” He also appointed Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, who ruled to invalidate the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone in April this year.

Unfortunately, however, President Trump’s history with abortion and his current stance on it can be difficult to decipher. In a 1999 interview on Meet the Press, he was asked about his views on abortion, and he responded in the following terms: “I am 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.” He later commented that he would not ban abortion as a whole, nor partial-birth abortion, a procedure which has been federally banned in most cases since 2003.

His stance on abortion changed, however. In 2015, Trump was once again asked his position on abortion by Bloomberg News’ Mark Halperin. He responded, “I’m pro-life, with the caveats. You have to have the caveats.” He went on to list rape, incest, and life of the mother as three exceptions to abortion that he would stand by, though these hard cases are not logically sufficient for the killing of the child in the womb. 

On the presidential campaign trail, Trump said that he would defund Planned Parenthood as president, as well as look into appointing enough Supreme Court justices for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. He has also, however, defended Planned Parenthood in the past. 

In a letter to pro-lifers, he wrote:

I am committed to: 

  • Nominating pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.  
  • Signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.  
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions, and reallocating their funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive health care for women.  
  • Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”

Recently, Donald Trump has criticized the way Republicans are dealing with the abortion issue. According to CNN, Trump has stated, “…if he is reelected he will try to broker compromises on how long into pregnancies abortion should be legal and whether those restrictions should be imposed on the federal or the state level.” He has criticized Governor Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban and suggested that the abortion issue should be left up to the states, though he would look at federal legislation to prohibit abortion at 15 weeks.

Unfortunately, former President Trump’s stance on abortion has been subject to change and confusion, and he is known for often side-stepping the issue. However, his administration is responsible for much of the good pro-life change we’ve seen in the country in recent years, including moves toward defunding Planned Parenthood, the reversal of Roe v. Wade, and more.

Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis is the current governor of Florida, which was listed as the 15th most pro-life state in the United States on the Americans United for Life’s Annual “Life List” at the beginning of 2023. The state jumped up seven spots on the list due to DeSantis’ work as Floridian leader.

In April of 2022, just over a year ago, DeSantis signed HB 5, titled “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality.” It prohibits abortion on preborn children who are older than fifteen weeks gestation. Live Action has reported that by week fifteen, 

a preborn child can make complex facial expressions with her nose and lips completely formed. She will bend her hips and knees if the sole of her foot is touched. She stretches, signs and opens her mouth. Her teeth are growing. Her heart has been beating since about 21 days after fertilization and her brain activity began at about eight weeks gestation.”

At the Kissimmee church in which the bill was signed, DeSantis stated, “We are here today to protect life. We are here today to defend those who can’t defend themselves.” Two exceptions are allowed under this ban: if there is a serious risk to the health of the mother and if there is a lethal fetal abnormality (again, these exceptions are not consistent with pro-life truth). Approximately 6% of all abortions recorded every year take place at or after fifteen weeks gestation. 

“In 2022, Governor DeSantis signed groundbreaking legislation to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood in Florida through educational programs, mentorship programs, and one-on-one support. Also in 2022, Governor DeSantis signed SB 7034, which expands support for foster parents and opportunities for foster children. In 2021, Governor DeSantis signed SB 2518, which helps reduce maternal mortality rates by extending postpartum eligibility for Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months post-delivery,” the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis website explains.

In April of this year, Ron DeSantis signed SB 300, which protects the preborn at six weeks gestation, the age at which the heartbeat is usually detectable with ultrasound. Unfortunately, it contains multiple exceptions, similar to previously mentioned policies and bills. However, it protects a greater number of unborn babies, though it has been met with sharp criticism from pro-choicers and even Republicans. In response to Donald Trump’s criticism, DeSantis said that he was proud of the bill and defended it. The Floridian Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to the fifteen-week ban, which will impact the six-week ban’s effect.

Ron DeSantis has recently stated that he does not support penalizing women who receive abortions, but rather, that the abortion provider should be punished. He has also suggested that individual states should take care of the abortion issue rather than the federal government.

During the Republican Presidential Primary debate, when asked about how he would respond to those criticizing his ban and saying that it would never hold nationally, nor help him politically, he stated, “You gotta do what you think is right. I believe in a culture of life. I was proud to sign the Heartbeat Bill.” He went on to explain that the most impactful moments of his life were when he heard the heartbeat of his eldest daughter, and when he saw the sonograms of all three of his kids. However, he never clarified whether he would sign a six-week abortion ban federally, though he conceded that all states would deal with abortion differently and that he is on the side of life.

Overall, Ron DeSantis’ support of a federal abortion ban is muddled at best and nonexistent at worst. However, his work in Florida has been a great witness of pro-life truth in the past years, and he is outspoken on his passion for the pro-life cause.

Tim Scott

[Editor’s Note: Tim Scott ended his presidential bid on November 13, 2023.]

Senator of South Carolina Tim Scott’s website reads,

“I am strongly pro-life, supporting the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Since Roe vs. Wade, more than 50 million Americans have never had the opportunity to touch our soil, and that is a tremendous tragedy…I regard all life as sacred, and am proud of our values and traditions. For this reason I am committed to protecting the unborn and continuing to take a stand in defending traditional and religious values.”

In a similar sentiment, the candidate passionately exclaimed at the 2013 Value Voters Summit that he’s, 

100% committed to being involved in the pro-life movement because we must stand up for the unborn. We have a responsibility – all across America – to stand up for our children. It is our right, it is our responsibility. We cannot say no. 50 million…more than 50 million Americans have never touched the soil…That’s a travesty.”

He later described the importance of helping scarred post-abortive parents, and that life is an inalienable right from God that must be protected. Furthermore, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life American has given Tim Scott a list rating “A” and lists many of his pro-life work. He has consistently voted for the defense of the unborn and has stood up against pro-choice bills and ideology. His work in the Senate has helped stop taxes from going to fund abortion, protect healthcare providers who refuse to provide abortions, prevent abortions being performed on preborn babies who can feel pain, etc.

The “Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” in South Carolina took effect just last month after the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the bill. This bans abortion once a heartbeat is detected, which is usually at six weeks. However, during the Axios News Shapers event earlier this year, Tim Scott was reported as skirting around questions about whether he truly supports the six-week ban, though he did say he would support a federal fifteen-week abortion ban. He has said that he will sign “the most conservative pro-life legislation you could bring to my desk.” 

Unfortunately, he has been criticized for deflecting questions about abortion. “On his second day of campaigning since announcing a presidential exploratory committee, the South Carolina Republican pivoted, deflected and avoided specifics when repeatedly pressed on where he stood on federal abortion restrictions,” reported Politico.

Recently Tim Scott has also criticized other Republican candidates, including former President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley for being too lax on abortion. He has charged both, as well as Governor Ron DeSantis, with having “run away from protecting life.” Concerning Donald Trump, Scott commented, “I think the former president is wrong on the issue. He was a pro-life president. We need a pro-life president in the future.”

Overall, Tim Scott has had a consistent pro-life record in the Senate. Though he has reportedly deflected important questions about a federal abortion ban, he acts very passionately about the unborn and isn’t afraid to call other candidates out for what he believes goes against pro-life beliefs.

Doug Burgum

Many people believe that wealthy business leader and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum should quit his bid in the presidential race. However, he’s still dedicated to his run. [Editor’s Note: Doug Burgum dropped out of the race on December 4, 2023.]

North Dakota has passed some great examples of pro-life policy in the previous years under Burgum’s leadership. At the beginning of 2019, two pro-life bills, titled House Bill 1336 and House Bill 1546, were passed in the state. The first bill requires physicians to inform women taking the abortion pill that it can be reversed. “If it gives hope to even one person who has started the process and wants to try to reverse it, it is worth providing that information,” Burgum said in a statement about the bill, which he signed. The second bans dismemberment or D&E abortions. These bills were passed with an overwhelming majority in the state legislature. 

In response to Roe v. Wade being overturned, Doug Burgum publicly stated, “Today’s landmark Supreme Court decision returns power to the states where it belongs. Our administration has consistently supported pro-life legislation and this decision is a victory for the many North Dakotans who have fought so hard and for so long to protect the unborn in our state. We will now work diligently with the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office to fulfill our constitutional duty by carrying out the 2007 legislation that is triggered by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We must now turn to prioritizing women’s health, including expectant mothers and children in need.” Unfortunately, the trigger law he refers to in this statement was immediately blocked upon it taking effect, creating the need for SB 2150.

In April of this year, Burgum signed HB 1265, which mandates that North Dakotan schools must educate students on preborn human development with medically accurate, high-definition videos, such as Live Action’s ‘Baby Olivia.’ “North Dakota is the first state to mandate that schools show a high definition video of human growth and development week by week in the womb in the school system,” Live Action News reported.

That same month, Burgum signed SB 2150, prohibiting abortion after six weeks of development. Rape, incest, and medical emergency allow for abortions in the first six weeks, and the law holds abortionists accountable; jail time and fines are possible punishments. “This bill clarifies and refines existing state law … and reaffirms North Dakota as a pro-life state,” Burgum stated. Senator Janne Myrdal also said, “North Dakota has always been pro-life and believed in valuing the moms and children both. We’re pretty happy and grateful that the governor stands with that value.”

Though Burgum signed what has been considered to be one of the strictest pro-life laws in the country, he has confirmed that he will not sign a federal abortion ban as president, believing that the issue should be decided at the state level. “I think the decision that was made returning the power to the states was the right one. We’ve got a lot of division on this issue in America, and what’s right for North Dakota may not be right for another state, Minnesota, California, New York,” he told CNN earlier this year.

“I’m a pro-life governor of a very pro-life state…I stand behind that we should not have a federal abortion ban. We should not. And the reason why we shouldn’t is very simple -it’s the 10th Amendment in the Constitution. In the Constitution, which the states created the federal government, not the other way around – it says that there were certain duties allowed to the federal government, delegated to them by the states. The rest are left to the states…We need to get back to freedom and liberty for the people in this country…I say that we follow the Constitution and this is returned to the states, this is where it should be,” the candidate explained in the first GOP presidential debate.

Overall, pro-life policy has flourished in North Dakota under Doug Burgum’s governance, but he opposes a federal abortion ban and would rather keep the abortion issue at the state level.

Cover photo: Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

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I love history, Middle Earth, writing, cinema, and Jesus. I hope to use the gifts He has given me to spread the Truth about His love and protect those in the womb.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.