RFK Jr. says he supports abortion up to birth: 'We should leave it to the woman'

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks onstage at Food & Bounty at Sunset Gower Studios on January 13, 2019, in Hollywood, California.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks onstage at Food & Bounty at Sunset Gower Studios on January 13, 2019, in Hollywood, California. | Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently seemed to suggest he supports allowing abortion up until the moment of birth, prompting outrage from pro-life groups and concerns of insincerity among progressives in light of his previous moderate rhetoric on the issue. 

Kennedy addressed his position on abortion during an appearance on "The Sage Steele Show" Wednesday. When asked if he was in favor of "leaving it up to the states" to determine abortion policy, Kennedy responded, "I wouldn't leave it to the states."

"What I believe is we should leave it to the woman; we shouldn't have government involved," he added.

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Steele, a former ESPN television personality with outspoken Christian views, pressed Kennedy to clarify if he supported abortion at "full term." He indicated that he thought the law should allow women to abort their unborn baby "even if it's full term."

Kennedy's running mate Nicole Shanahan appeared on Steele's show last week, where she discussed his views on abortion and appeared surprised when Steele said he told her previously that he supports abortion up until birth. 

"My understanding is that he absolutely believes in limits on abortion," Shanahan said. "We've talked about it. I don't know where that came from."

On the campaign trail last year, Kennedy told a reporter he believed "the decision to abort a child should be up to the woman during the first three months of life."

When the reporter followed up and asked Kennedy whether or not he would support a federal 15-week abortion ban, the candidate reiterated that he favored banning abortions after "three months," equivalent to 12 weeks gestation.  

In response to a clarification question as to whether Kennedy opposed "unlimited access to abortion as many in the Democratic Party" support, the candidate stated that "once a child is viable outside the womb, I think that a state has an interest in protecting that child." The Kennedy campaign later put out a statement insisting that he "misunderstood a question posed to him by an NBC reporter in a crowded, noisy exhibit hall at the Iowa State Fair."  

"Mr. Kennedy's position on abortion is that it is always the woman's right to choose. He does not support legislation banning abortion," the campaign continued.

Throughout the campaign, Kennedy used rhetoric that suggested a more moderate tone on the polarizing issue of abortion. At the beginning of his candidacy, a section of his website devoted to "reconciliation" said he "has clear positions on most of today's divisive trigger issues like abortion, guns and immigration" while acknowledging that "both sides have legitimate concerns and legitimate moral positions."

Expressing confidence that "no one is deplorable," the website proclaimed that "few relish the thought of dead fetuses, nor do they want to force women to have unwanted babies." The campaign listed abortion as one of several areas where Kennedy would seek to "draw on the broad moral agreements beneath our divisions, model careful listening, and create conditions where each group can hear the stories of the other."

Kennedy channeled this rhetoric in his interview with Steele, describing "every abortion" as a "tragedy" and adding that "many of them leave permanent trauma on the woman." At the same time, he maintained, "I don't trust government to have jurisdiction over people's bodies."

"I think we need to leave it to the woman, her pastor and to … her spiritual advisors or her physician, whatever," he asserted.

Kennedy downplayed the idea of late-term abortions.

"I don't think any woman ... ever in history has said, 'I'm going to … have a baby, I'm going to get pregnant and carry that baby to eight months term, and then I'm going to terminate the pregnancy.' I don't think anybody wants to do that."

When Steele pushed back and said late-term abortions have happened "too many times to count," the candidate replied, "In almost all those cases, there's extenuating circumstances."

More recently, Kennedy has unveiled a proposal called "More Choices, More Life" that he predicts would "dramatically reduce abortion in this country." Specifically, he calls for a "massive subsidized daycare initiative" and strengthening "adoption infrastructure" by increasing the child tax credit.  He touched upon this in his interview with Steele. 

Kennedy's comments in his interview with Steele drew swift criticism from pro-life advocacy groups. In a statement published Thursday, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser claimed Kennedy "exposed himself as a true extremist."

"He is no different from Joe Biden or Kamala Harris when it comes to supporting brutal abortions at any time for any reason, even when the babies in the womb feel pain, with zero limits or exceptions," she said. "Just 10% of voters agree with this radical stance of the Democrats, and the United States is one of only eight countries including China and Vietnam that have no federal protections for unborn children at any point in pregnancy."

"He would use the power of the federal government to wipe out protections for life in the states and impose unlimited abortion on demand all the way up to 'full term,' as he puts it, everywhere in America," Dannenfelser added. "That makes him unacceptable to millions of pro-life voters nationwide."

The progressive advocacy organization MoveOn, which has emerged as a staunch opponent of Kennedy's presidential campaign, has suggested that the candidate's support for unlimited access to abortion is insincere.

"Within the last year, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has supported an abortion ban and other restrictions on reproductive health," MoveOn Political Action Chief Communications Officer Joel Payne stated. "As recently as last week, his own running mate reaffirmed his anti-abortion views. We won't let him wiggle out of this one."

According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls conducted between April 12 and May 7 measuring voters' intentions in a five-way race between President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, Kennedy, progressive independent candidate Cornel West and potential Green Party nominee Jill Stein, Kennedy captures 10.8% support among the American public. While he remains far behind Trump's 41.5% and Biden's 38.8%, Kennedy polls ahead of West's 2.0% and Stein's 1.5%. 

Kennedy's performance in the race will depend on his level of ballot access.

As of Friday, Kennedy has secured ballot access in 13 states that have a combined 147 electoral votes in the Electoral College: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.

So far, Kennedy winning the states where he currently has ballot access would leave the candidate short of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. The campaign is currently looking to get on the ballot in all 50 states. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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