During GOP Debate DeSantis Says He Would Support 15-Week National Abortion Ban

Only Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were given the chance to speak on abortion.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 14, 2023.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 14, 2023. (photo: The Old Major / Shutterstock)

Conspicuously absent from the second Republican presidential primary debate this week: much talk on abortion politics and policy. 

After occupying a sizable portion of the first debate in August, the issue was only discussed for brief minutes near the end of Wednesday’s event, wedged in between discussions on the size of the federal government and the GOP’s challenges with Latino voters. 

Only Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were given the chance to speak on abortion — with DeSantis offering a vocal defense of pro-life beliefs before confirming that he would support a national 15-week ban on the procedure. 

Responding to a question from moderator Dana Perino as to how he might “win over independent pro-choice voters,” DeSantis cited his landslide reelection victory in Florida in 2022 after he signed a 15-week abortion ban in that state. 

“We won the greatest Republican victory in a governor’s race in the history of the state, over 1.5 million votes,” he said. He claimed the major victory came about “because we were leading with purpose and conviction.” 

DeSantis criticized remarks earlier this year from former President Donald Trump, who said Republican intractability on abortion was responsible for the GOP’s underperformance in the 2022 midterms. 

“It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on no exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother, that lost large numbers of voters,” Trump wrote on Truth Social in January.

DeSantis on Wednesday night disputed this assertion. “I reject this idea that pro-lifers are to blame for midterm defeats,” DeSantis said. “I think there’s other reasons for that.”

The GOP governor said he and his wife, Casey, had earlier in the day visited the graves of former President Ronald Reagan and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. That memorial site features a quote from Reagan in which the Republican president asserted that there is “purpose and worth to each and every life.”

“We’re better off when everybody counts, and I think we should stand for what we believe in,” DeSantis said Wednesday night. 

“I think we should hold the Democrats accountable for their extremism, supporting abortion all the way up until the moment of birth,” he added. “That is infanticide and that is wrong.”

Directly after those remarks, DeSantis confirmed that if elected president he would seek a 15-week nationwide ban on abortion.

When asked by fellow primary contender Sen. Tim Scott if he would support that federal policy, DeSantis — in a hurried moment filled with crosstalk — responded: “Yes, I will.”

DeSantis’ campaign later confirmed to the Daily Signal that he had indeed affirmed his support for a 15-week ban. 

The governor earlier this year signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida, an even stricter policy than that which he signed last year.

Just a few contenders for the GOP nomination have come out in support of a federal 15-week ban. DeSantis had previously refused to say if he’d support that policy; Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and former Vice President Mike Pence have all previously voiced support for such a ban. 

Trump has dodged the question of a federal ban as he ramps up his 2024 campaign. Speaking to NBC News’ Kristen Welker earlier this month, he said that “from a legal standpoint,” it’s “probably better” if abortion is only regulated at the state level. “But I can live with it either way,” he said,

“Something is going to happen,” he told Welker. “It’s going to be a number of weeks. Something is going to happen where both sides are going to be able to come together.” The former president further described DeSantis’ six-week ban in Florida as “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”

DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to a query on Thursday morning. 

Aside from DeSantis, Christie was the only other contender to speak at length about abortion. 

The longtime Republican noted that he had repeatedly vetoed Planned Parenthood funding while governor of New Jersey, though he also said that he “believe[s] in states’ rights,” arguing that Republicans “fought hard against Roe v. Wade for decades to say that states should make these decisions.”

Christie said that the Republican candidate for president cannot be pro-life “just [for] the nine months in the womb.” He cited the need for widespread drug addiction treatment in the U.S. 

“If you’re pro-life you’ve got to be pro-life for the entire life,” he said.