Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr has walked back on an apparent pledge to implement a federal ban on abortion after the first three months of pregnancy.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr – State Should Protect ‘Viable’ Children
“I believe a decision to abort a child should be up to the women during the first three months of life.
“Once a child is viable, outside the womb, I think then the state has an interest in protecting the child.”
He contextualized his position by advocating for medical freedom and individual autonomy in making personal choices, telling the TV station: “I’m for medical freedom. Individuals are able to make their own choices.”
However, hours later, he walked back his stance, with a spokesperson for his campaign attributing the confusion to a “misunderstood” line of questioning by NBC News during a noisy exchange at the Iowa State Fair.
The spokesperson affirmed that Kennedy’s core position on abortion has consistently supported a “woman’s right to choose”, emphasizing that he does not advocate for legislation that bans abortion.
In response to this apparent U-turn, the NBC journalist who initially published his remarks tweeted a transcript of her full exchange with the Democrat, stressing that she asked her questions several times to ensure he understood the topic.
“Where do you draw the line?”
This initial stance thrust Kennedy, who is pursuing a challenging bid to unseat President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee in the 2024 election, into a contentious position within his own party.
The issue of abortion access has consistently remained a pivotal factor for U.S. voters, making his remarks stand out against the backdrop of his party’s prevailing stance.
Kennedy’s unexpected alignment with pro-life group The Susan B. Anthony List elicited praise from that organization. In a statement, they characterized his stance as a notable departure from the Democratic Party’s current position on abortion. The group urged other candidates to clarify their positions on the issue, asking, “Where do you draw the line?”
A Partisan Issue?
Kennedy also found himself addressing questions surrounding his alignment with the Democratic Party while expressing views that commonly align with conservative talking points. During the interview, he defended his decision to run as a Democrat, despite presenting multiple viewpoints typically associated with conservatism.
Pro-life values were not always out of place in the elected Democratic Party. When the Hyde amendment which banned federal funding for abortions passed the House in 1976, it was with the backing of 247 Democrat votes. However, the current landscape shows the issue has become highly polarized and partisan.
Joe Manchin of West Virginia is the sole Senate Democrat who recently aligned with Republicans to block legislation aimed at establishing federal protections for abortion rights.
Down the ballot, Democrats opposing abortion rights are being pushed out or are switching parties. For instance, Aaron Oliver lost his chairmanship within the Morristown Democratic Committee in New Jersey due to his anti-abortion stance.
This is despite the fact that over a quarter of Democrat voters describe themselves as pro-life.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.
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