Former President Donald Trump put abortion front and center in his pre-recorded address to a gathering of religious conservatives in Iowa on Saturday, signaling his road map of how he intends to gain sway with evangelical voters.
Mr. Trump dove headlong into what is expected to be a marquee issue leading up to the 2024 issue reminding those in attendance at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” spring kickoff that it was him that nominated three of the six conservative justices who vote in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.
“I facedown vile attacks to confirm our three great Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett,” Mr. Trump said kicking off his speech.
“Last year after decades of work by organizations like yours, those justices delivered a landmark victory for protecting innocent life,” he said. “Nobody thought it was going to happen. They voted to be another 50 years because Republicans had been trying to do it for exactly that period of time: 50 years.”
He added that he was the first president to attend the March for Life rally in Washington, an annual rally against abortion.
“From my first day in office, I took historic action to protect the unborn,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s pitch on abortion offers a glimpse into how he intends to shore up support among evangelical voters – a key voting bloc in the Republican Party – amid unsavory headlines that could complicate his relationship with the religious right.
Mr. Trump is facing an ongoing legal battle in New York for allegedly falsifying business records to conceal a series of hush money payments to bury an extramarital affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Mr. Trump has denied all the allegations and any wrongdoing.
His rivals have generally sided with him in denouncing the criminal charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a political ploy. Still, that won’t stop them from questioning Mr. Trump’s commitment to the Christian right.
Nonetheless, abortion is expected to be a central issue in 2024 – the first presidential election since the Supreme Court decision on Roe.
Ahead of last year’s midterm elections, Democrats turned the decision into a campaign rallying cry, urging voters to flood the polls and give Congress the needed votes to “restore the protections” from the Roe ruling.
The issue has since gained more prominence with high-profile rulings on federal approval of mifepristone, a pharmaceutical used to terminate pregnancies.
After dueling decisions from federal judges in Texas and Washington earlier this month, the Supreme Court was forced to weigh in to keep the medication fully available on the market until the case can receive full consideration in a lower court.
The back-and-forth thrust abortion back into the spotlight and reignited Democrats’ rallying cry against Republicans.
Earlier this month, Vice President Kamala Harris took to the streets of Los Angeles to decry “extremist” attacks on abortion rights during an impromptu stop at the City of Angels’ Women’s March.
“Around our country, supposed so-called extremist leaders, who would dare to silence the voice of the people, a United States Supreme Court, the highest court in our land, that took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America,” she said.
Ms. Harris has called restrictions on abortion “immoral” and has promised the White House would push back on efforts to ban mifepristone.
The Democrats’ fury did little to deter Mr. Trump from stumping on his pro-life credentials on Saturday.
“As the most pro-life president in American history, I will continue to stand strong against the extreme late-term abortionist in the Democrat Party,” he said. “This is where we’ve come and it’s so sad to see. I will stand proudly in defense of innocent life just as I did for four very powerful, strong years.”
— Seth McLaughlin contributed to this story