Anti-abortion activists march during the annual March for Life in front of the Supreme Court.
Anti-abortion advocates are now trying to find clarity as many want to see Trump support further restrictions.
Mariam Zuhaib/AP

The Anti-Abortion Movement is Spiraling After Trump’s Reported 16-Week Ban Stance

“We need Trump to finish what he started. We need Trump to end abortion in America,” an anti-abortion activist told NOTUS.

Donald Trump is reportedly floating a federal 16-week restriction on abortion, leaving anti-abortion leaders reeling.

The likely Republican nominee is beloved by many in the anti-abortion movement. But a 16-week ban would prohibit around 6% of abortions and not go far enough for many conservatives who want to see the former president go much further.

“We need Trump to finish what he started. We need Trump to end abortion in America,” said Mark Lee Dickson, an anti-abortion activist who helped pave the way for Texas’ lawsuit-enforced six-week ban and several city ordinance restrictions. A 16-week federal ban is “not enough,” he said, because “we cannot live in an America that recognizes unborn children are human beings and, simultaneously, says that mothers should be allowed to kill their children.”

Dickson told NOTUS that he is still “fully in support” of Trump in the 2024 elections. But his response is reflective of the anti-abortion movement overall since Roe v. Wade was overturned: It’s divided and confused.

The New York Times reported that the former president has privately told advisers and allies that he likes the idea of a 16-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother — marking the first time that Trump has even privately expressed support for a federal abortion law, while also being a position that no major anti-abortion group has taken.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America — which had been calling on Republicans to support a 15-week ban at minimum — praised the report, calling Trump’s stance “compassionate.” Students for Life of America — which has been calling for a six-week ban — urged Trump to clarify, saying that a “limit on abortion at four months … will make no one happy.”

“If we accept a lousy 16-week abortion ‘ban’ ... the next step will be to weaken our 100% pro-life party platform,” said Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins, who added that Trump’s position would “[turn] away” anti-abortion voters.

Trump “would sit down with both sides” of the abortion discussion “and negotiate a deal that everyone will be happy with,” said Karoline Leavitt, a Trump campaign spokesperson, who added that Democrats, on the other hand, have a “radical” position. Support for a 16-week abortion ban might just be an extension of that approach. (The Trump campaign ultimately called the New York Times’ story “fake news” but did not specifically say whether the former president supports or opposes a 16-week ban.)

Shortly after Trump’s comments came out, Democrats quickly seized on the Times’ story, arguing that any kind of ban on abortion is radical.

“The bottom line is this: The fundamental choice in this election is going to be between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who are running to restore Roe as the law of the land, against Donald Trump, who’s out here every single day bragging about the role that he personally played in overturning Roe. He is now planning to ban abortion across the country,” said Michael Tyler, communications director for the Biden campaign, in a press call.

A July AP poll found that 51% of respondents believed states should allow abortion up until 15 weeks. Another October New York Times/Siena College poll found that only 42% of registered voters supported a federal law prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks.

But even as Trump’s position on abortion appears moderate in comparison to those of other Republicans who support more severe restrictions, his reported comments could have a potential political fallout. GOP strategists have said that Republicans should refrain from talking about any sort of national abortion ban, particularly as recent electoral races show that abortion rights are a political winner at the ballot box. For now though, anti-abortion advocates are trying to find clarity.

“I think it gives great comfort to us to hear about a behind-the-scenes discussion that the next president of the United States has not given up on a federal abortion ban,” Dickson told NOTUS. “But, at the same time, we know when the majority of abortions take place, and we have to continuously educate America on that reality: that 16-week abortion bans do very little in terms of the overall ending of abortion in America.”

Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.