Donald Trump isn’t done antagonizing the conservative anti-abortion movement just yet.
The Republican frontrunner suggested Thursday that the GOP platform on abortion should be loosened to permit exceptions for cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother, prompting a major anti-abortion group to accuse Trump of taking a position that “would set back years of hard work in the pro-life movement.”
At a Today Show town hall Thursday, Trump was asked whether he would change the Republican platform — which includes no exceptions in its opposition to abortion — to match his his own support for some exceptions.
“Yes, I would. Absolutely. For the three exceptions, I would,” Trump said.
In response, March for Life Action’s Tom McClusky issued a statement defending the current GOP platform while condemning Trump’s desire to alter it.
“Thanks to the good work of people like Phyllis Schlafly, the Republican Platform has always been solidly pro-life even when Republican candidates have not been,” he said. “The Platform sets the standard that all candidates need to work from, and the suggestion that the platform should weaken its position on the pro-life issue would set back years of hard work in the pro-life movement.”
The rebuttal comes less than a month after Trump managed to tick off both anti-abortion activists and advocates of abortion rights by suggesting that women seeking abortions should face criminal punishment if the procedure is banned. He ultimately walked back the remark, facing backlash from anti-abortion groups who say they have never advocated punishing women. Trump also got pushback last fall for speaking positively about Planned Parenthood as anti-abortion lawmakers were trying to shut down the government over federal funding to the organization.
Trump has always been viewed skeptically by abortion foes, who doubted whether the New York real estate mogul — who only reversed his former “pro-choice” position around the time he was ramping up his involvement in conservative politics — truly understood the legal underpinnings of the anti-abortion movement or even sincerely opposed the procedure.
Trump’s latest feather-ruffling also runs counter to a political strategy that was years in the making by abortion opponents to rally around efforts like the 20-week abortion ban — which has broader support than outlawing abortion outright — in order to paint Democrats as out of the mainstream. Trump’s comment Thursday, as well as his remarks about punishing women, shifts the conversation back to positions unpopular with the public. Americans overwhelmingly favor abortion rights for victims of rape and incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. Likewise, there is very little popular support (only 10 percent, according to a 2000 poll, the most recent FiveThirtyEight could find) for punishing women for undergoing the procedure.