Dems, media insist 'no one' supports unlimited abortion – but some have, while state laws allow it

Overstating their case? At the same time that abortion activists say "no one" supports abortion right up to birth, activists have lobbied for and succeeded in having at least six states – Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont – as well as Washington, D.C., allow abortions to be performed legally at any point of gestation.

Published: September 20, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: September 20, 2023 11:14pm

While Democrats and the news media insist that "no one" supports abortions until the moment of birth, state laws and polls of U.S. adults suggest otherwise, and Republicans are being advised to alter their messaging on abortion ahead of the 2024 presidential election if they want to win on the issue.

NBC News "Meet the Press" host Kristen Welker told former President Donald Trump in an interview broadcast earlier this week that "Democrats don't want" abortions through nine months and after birth. "No one is arguing for that," she said.

MSNBC host and former Biden White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted last month on X, formerly Twitter: "No one supports abortion up until birth."

That is not exactly true, because several Democrats have supported unlimited abortion and then as elections neared, walked back that position. For example, when Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) was asked by reporters in April 2022 if he supported any limits on abortion, he sternly said he didn't support any limits on abortion. Fetterman recanted that position during a debate before the November 2022 midterms. 

Other Democrats going into elections have prevaricated on their refusal to accept any limits on abortion, including Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.); Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.); and former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

In April of this year Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned witnesses about whether they support making it legal to abort with unfettered discretion. Kennedy was clearly frustrated by Democratic witnesses who danced around his direct question: "Do you support abortion up to the moment of birth?” 

Pollster Scott Rasmussen told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show this week that only 5% of voters "believe that a woman should be able to have an abortion at any time up to the moment of birth with no exceptions and no restrictions" while "only 5% are saying that there should be no abortions allowed."

The survey referenced by Rasmussen was conducted by his organization, RMG Research, Inc., and showed that 5% of voters reject all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest and threat to a mother's life. On the flip side, 5% of voters are against all abortion restrictions, including waiting periods or notifying the father of the baby or the parents of a minor mother.

Rasmussen said that taking extreme views risks alienating voters. 

"When you start to talk like you're in an extreme position, you get yourself in trouble," he said. 

The "winning message" for Republicans is "acknowledging that we need to help women in difficult situations, and that the goal is fewer abortions," Rasmussen also said, adding that popular reforms include holding a man financially responsible for the child and the mother after conception and focusing incentives to not have an abortion.

Former President Donald Trump already appears to be taking a more moderate approach than some radically pro-life voters have advocated for, and he argues that the issue cost Republicans seats in Congress during the 2022 midterms.

"I believe in the three exceptions for Rape, Incest, and the Life of the Mother," Trump wrote Tuesday on Truth Social. "Without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win Elections, we would probably lose the Majorities in 2024, and perhaps the Presidency itself, but you must follow your HEART!"

The survey results seem to change when the question is less blunt. A Gallup poll from May 2023 shows that far less than half of U.S. adults, 34%, say abortion should be "legal under any circumstances."

When asked specifically for their thoughts on third-trimester abortions, which lasts from week 27 of gestation until birth, 22% of U.S. adults said the procedure should still be legal, according to another Gallup poll.

Notably, many infants are viable before the third trimester, and the age of fetal viability is decreasing. In 2000, babies born at 24 weeks had about a 50% chance of survival, according to a study published by the National Library of Medicine. In a study of births from 2013-2018 published last year by the medical journal JAMA, about 50% of infants born at 23 weeks survived.

Trump also said on "Meet the Press" that Democrats support abortions after birth, which Welker denied. While no major Democratic figure has called for "post-birth abortions," the procedure is allowed in certain cases in the Netherlands and Canadian doctors have said some parents have asked for their severely ill infants to be euthanized as the country considers expanding its assisted suicide program to minors. 

While U.S. doctors may not be committing infanticide (that is, termination of life post-birth), some medical professionals may deny care to some infants born alive even though the 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act all living infants are granted the same protections as any other person.

The House passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act earlier this year, which states that medical professionals must "exercise the same degree of care as would reasonably be provided to any other child born alive at the same gestational age" and immediately admit the child to a hospital. The legislation passed with 219 Republican votes and a single Democratic vote, but the Democratic-controlled Senate has not taken up the bill.

According to the conservative Family Research Council, 38 states have some type of protection for infants born alive after abortion, but 32 states do not adequately protect infant abortion survivors.

Additionally, at least six states – Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont – as well as Washington, D.C., allow abortions to be performed at any point of gestation. At least 17 states ban abortions after fetal viability, which is about 24 weeks, according to health policy researcher KFF.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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