Former President Donald Trump is facing a wave of backlash from pro-life conservatives for criticizing laws banning abortions after six weeks, also known as heartbeat laws. During a Sunday interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the former president called Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ latest anti-abortion legislation “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” emphasizing how he prefers a compromise that will make both sides like him.

Former President Donald Trump criticized states banning abortions after six weeks, calling Florida's heartbeat laws “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake." (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Anti-abortion “March for Life” rally in Washington DC. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Sitting down with “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker, former President Trump discussed a variety of topics, ranging from his openness to a female running mate to the indictments against Hunter Biden. Welker then pressed Trump about his stance on key issues—particularly abortion— with the goal of “giving voters who are going to be weighing in on this election a very clear sense of where you stand.”

As the 2024 election approaches, the debate over abortion and reproductive rights has remained one of the most contentious issues for voters. Perhaps the most concrete legacy of Trump’s first term in office was the appointment of three Supreme Court Justices whose ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization helped to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision after nearly 50 years.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, which determined that the Constitution does not confer the right to terminate pregnancies and returned the regulation of abortion to individual states, Democrats have relentlessly pushed for a Congressional bill to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law. At the same time, Republican state legislatures have begun passing laws limiting how far into a pregnancy an abortion can be performed. Nearly two dozen states have passed laws banning or restricting abortions, with many embracing “heartbeat laws” that outlaw the procedure once a heartbeat is detected at six weeks.

Trump’s critics have insisted that his return to office would lead to a full federal ban on abortion…but his statements on Sunday indicate otherwise.

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“I think they’re all going to like me, I think both sides are going to like me,” Trump said. “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.”

“If a federal ban landed on your desk if you were re-elected, would you sign it at 15 weeks?” Welker asked.

“Well, people are starting to think of 15 weeks, that seems to be a number that people are talking about right now,” Trump replied. “I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something, and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years. I’m not going to say I would or I wouldn’t.”

Trump continued by calling out Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who currently follows Trump at a distant second in the Republican primary race.

“I mean, DeSanctus [short for ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’] is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban,” Trump said.

“Would you support that? You think that goes too far?” Welker asked.

“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” Trump answered.

Notably, Florida’s Heartbeat Protection Act, which passed in early April, contains exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and conditions that endanger the life of the mother. The Florida Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments against the existing 15-week ban. If the law is upheld, then the new six-week will take effect one month later.

Trump’s comments, which have been widely criticized by the pro-life movement, came as a significant departure from his approach to the abortion debate in 2016. During his first run for office, Trump indicated a hardline stance against it, even suggesting legal consequences for those who perform and receive abortions.

In addition to Florida, heartbeat laws have also been passed in Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

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