WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg called abortion a “national freedom” on Sunday and defended the practice of late-term abortion.
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, made the comments during a “town hall” broadcast for Fox on May 19. In defending unrestricted abortion, Buttigieg appeared to put himself at odds with the majority of voters both in his own party and nationwide.
Asked if he believed there should be any limit on access to abortion, at any time during pregnancy, Buttigieg responded: “I trust women to draw the line.”
Mayor Pete, as his campaign prefers him to be styled, was asked specifically about recent legislation at the state level to either expand or restrict abortion access.
In a tweet sent in response to the passage of a law to outlaw abortion in Alabama, Buttigieg said legislators were “ignoring science” in efforts to protect unborn life. Responding to the example of the New York Reproductive Health Act passed earlier this year, which effectively removed all limitations on abortion, Buttigieg said there is no place for the government in discussing limits on abortion.
Characterizing the decision to terminate a pregnancy during the final weeks before term as “an impossible, unthinkable choice,” he repeated that he believed there was no place for the law to intervene.
“That decision is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made.”
While Buttigieg’s comments drew applause from the crowd, consistent poll results show a trend in public opinion away from supporting abortion and especially against late-term abortions.
The New York law was passed in January of this year, making abortion a legal right up to the point of birth. Subsequent polling has shown that the vast majority of New Yorkers are opposed to late-term abortion.
A Marist poll published in March found that that 75% of New York residents are opposed to abortion after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Only 20% of those surveyed said they approved of late-term abortion.
Those opposed to abortion after 20 weeks included nearly 70% of surveyed Democrats, 73% of political independents and 89% of Republicans.
An earlier poll, released in February, recorded a sharp drop in the proportion of Democrats identifying as “pro-choice,” from 75% to 61% since the beginning of the year. The same poll found a 19-point jump in “pro-life” identification among people under 45 years old. Forty-seven percent of people under the age of 45 now say they are pro-life, compared to 48% who say they are pro-choice.
As legislators in New York and Vermont have moved to entrench access to abortion, other states have enacted measures to protect children in the womb. Four states — Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio — have so far this year passed laws to ban abortions after the unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected, often around six weeks of pregnancy. All four laws are already facing legal challenges.
An April poll by Rasmussen showed that while only 45% of voters supported banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, that number rose to 56% once they were told a fetal heartbeat can be detected at that point.
Other states have sought to outlaw particular abortion methods, or pass trigger laws which would ban abortion in the event the Supreme Court were to overturn its ruling in Roe v. Wade.