Trump declares support for abortion ban

But US President in favour of exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest

Abortion rights activists protesting last Friday after Missouri state passed a Bill that bans abortions the moment a foetal heartbeat is detected. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Abortion rights activists protesting last Friday after Missouri state passed a Bill that bans abortions the moment a foetal heartbeat is detected. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has declared himself "strongly pro-life", but in favour of exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, after several US states passed tough new restrictions on abortions.

The US leader spelled out his position on abortion, set to be a hot-button issue at next year's presidential election, on Saturday, days after Alabama's governor signed the country's most restrictive law - enacting a near-total prohibition even in cases of rape and incest.

"As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly pro-life, with the three exceptions - rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan," tweeted Mr Trump.

Mr Trump, a bombastic, twice-divorced billionaire, won over the evangelical vote during his 2016 campaign by promising to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. He has since brought two conservative appointees to the highest court in the land - judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - shifting the balance of the nine-person bench.

American evangelicals now have high hopes that the court will chip away at its historic 1973 US decision to legalise abortion.

In addition to Alabama, the Missouri legislature last week made abortions illegal from eight weeks of pregnancy.

Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota have enacted laws banning abortion from the moment a foetal heartbeat is detected.

The bans are expected to be blocked in court, but supporters plan to appeal against such decisions until they reach the Supreme Court, in hopes that this will lead to the long-sought conservative goal of overturning the abortion ruling, known as Roe v Wade.

Roe v Wade guarantees women's rights to abortion as long as the foetus is not viable - around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Mr Trump has also called for a congressional ban on late-term abortions as he seeks to expand his conservative support ahead of his re-election bid.

"The radical left, with late-term abortion (and worse), is imploding on this issue," he tweeted late on Saturday. "We must stick together and Win for Life in 2020."

Actress Eva Longoria said restrictive abortion laws passed in the US states of Alabama and Missouri are a threat to women, as stars staged a protest against the bans on the Cannes red carpet on Saturday.

"What's happening in Alabama is so important in the world," the Desperate Housewives star said, referring to the US state which has banned terminations even in the case of rape or incest. "It's going to affect everybody if we don't pay attention."

Longoria, a pro-choice Catholic, warned of a "domino effect" with a dozen other Republican-controlled US states seeking to restrict the rights of women to abortion.

Last year, the Latina actress produced the Netflix documentary Reversing Roe, which showed how pro-life groups are mounting a major push to overturn the landmark US Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion in 1973.

Her comments come as Spanish star Penelope Cruz joined a group of actresses led by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rossi de Palma and French director Claire Denis in staging a red carpet protest for abortion rights.

The gathering was originally meant to support the Argentinian documentary Let It Be Law, which premiered on Saturday in the festival's official selection.

It tells the story of the struggle for women's rights in the huge, largely Catholic Latin American country, which has become bitterly divided over abortion.

Longoria, one of the founders of the Time's Up movement that pushes for gender equality and women's rights, told a Kering "Women in Motion" talk at Cannes last Friday that the group would likely get involved in next year's US presidential election.

"We're trying to figure out what is Time's Up's role in these elections, and how can we have an impact," she said.

Despite the momentum generated after #MeToo, she said in the workplace, generally "the statistics are going the wrong way. We're not improving".


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2019, with the headline Trump declares support for abortion ban. Subscribe