Fears grow among conservatives over abortion in GOP platform

Fears grow among conservatives over abortion in GOP platform

Prominent anti-abortion, evangelical and social conservative groups are pressuring the Republican National Committee (RNC) not to moderate its stance on abortion, ahead of a meeting to draft a new GOP platform next week.

New efforts from groups including Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Students for Life, and a coalition led by the Family Research Council are aimed at ensuring Republicans don’t make former President Trump’s leave-abortion-to-the states approach the official position of the party.

Anti-abortion leaders have been expressing concern about Trump’s approach throughout the campaign, as he has tried to avoid taking a firm stance and wading into the political minefield of abortion.

Yet as the RNC closes ranks around Trump ahead of their nominating convention in Milwaukee, those groups are growing increasingly worried.

They argue weakening the platform would be abandoning all the progress the movement has made at limiting access to the procedure and would risk a divide among the party when they should be united.

The campaign and the RNC have seemingly rebuffed those entreaties.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the anti-abortion movement has sought assurances from the Trump campaign for more than a month “that it will not gut the pro-life plank of the platform” but hasn’t heard anything.

“Every indication is that the campaign will muscle through changes behind closed doors,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “If the Trump campaign decides to remove national protections for the unborn in the GOP platform, it would be a miscalculation that would hurt party unity and destroy pro-life enthusiasm between now and the election.”

Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins hosted a webcast Monday night with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) where she urged young anti-abortion activists to contact their state and local GOP leaders.

Hawkins said she’s had multiple conversations with the Trump campaign since February about what the platform should reflect.

During the webcast, Hawkins and Lankford criticized the idea that abortion is a states-only issue.

“I’m keenly aware we don’t have the 60 votes in the Senate. But the worst thing we can do is not talk about it at all, and somehow make people presume this is no longer a value … the way you win the argument is to keep talking about it, not to talk about it less. So as Republicans we’ve got to have this national focus, talk about it,” Lankford said.

The Republican Party’s platform has long condemned abortion and expressed support for a national ban.

In 2016, the platform backed “a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”

It also included language opposing any public funding to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Yet the platform hasn’t been updated since, as the RNC, citing COVID-19, passed a stopgap measure in 2020.

This year is especially significant, as it’s the first time the party will meet to make changes since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Anti-abortion advocates, including RNC members, are eager to make their mark.

But the Trump campaign is pushing back to avoid any vulnerabilities. Trump has a history of avoiding taking a direct stance on controversial issues, often leaving himself room to change his position or backtrack when politically expedient.

The campaign wants to present a “streamlined” platform, and there will reportedly be no media or spectators in the room when the platform is presented and voted on, though it may be open to other RNC members.

Trump campaign senior adviser Danielle Alvarez said the platform committee “has yet to convene to discuss what language should be in the final document,” so any speculation is premature.

But the campaign is also making sure the platform committee involves members loyal to the campaign who are not necessarily anti-abortion hard-liners.

“I am a little concerned about some of the hardball tactics that were used in trying to get some people on the platform committee, and also making sure that certain people couldn’t serve in the platform committee,” one RNC member said.

The platform committee hopefuls didn’t want to do anything to take away from Trump getting elected, “but they don’t want it watered down to where it’s nothing but vanilla mush. If the platform doesn’t stand for anything, why have anything at all?” the member said.

In an effort to boost transparency of the platform meetings, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who is a member of the platform committee, launched a new initiative to track and score the individual votes of platform delegates.

But Arizona state Rep. Alex Kolodin, who is also a member of the platform committee, said he thinks the anti-abortion leaders are reacting to the perception of a change, rather than concrete evidence that something will happen.

“I’m sure there will be some moderate attempts to water down the very strong pro-life position that we’ve taken in our platform, and we absolutely have to be vigilant about it. I mean, the establishment is a real thing,” Kolodin said.

He acknowledged that people may be suspicious of holding the meeting behind closed doors.

“But I would simply say that before we start pointing fingers this way, or that way, maybe we ought to have some real direct one-on-one conversations … I haven’t seen any sort of evidence … that the campaign has weighed in on this. And that’s something I think people should be skeptical of.”

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