RFK Jr. walks back support for late-term abortion ban

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. officially announces his presidential president onn April 19, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. He is running against President Joe Biden for the Democrat Party's nomination.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. officially announces his presidential president onn April 19, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. He is running against President Joe Biden for the Democrat Party's nomination. | Scott Eisen/Getty Images

The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is attempting to clarify his stance on abortion after he suggested an openness to signing a law that would ban abortion after 12 weeks gestation if elected president. 

Kennedy, mounting a primary challenge to incumbent President Joe Biden, spoke with NBC News at the Iowa State Fair over the weekend. Reporter Ali Vitali asked the candidate if he would “sign a federal protection to protect the rights that were in the Roe precedent,” referring to the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned Roe in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationdecision determining that the U.S. Constitution does not contain a right to abortion.

“I believe that the decision to abort a child should be up to the woman during the first three months of life,” he responded. When Vitali inquired as to whether Kennedy would “sign a federal cap” limiting abortions to the first 15 weeks or the first 21 weeks of pregnancy, he once again reiterated his support for banning abortions after “three months.” 

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After Vitali categorized Kennedy’s position as “not 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.” At the same time, Kennedy stressed that he was for “medical freedom,” adding, “I think individuals ought to be able to make their own choices.”

“I think the states … have a right to protect a child once a child becomes viable,” he reiterated. “I think there’s very, very few abortions that are performed after that period of time anyway.” 

Throughout the latter portion of his comments on abortion, Kennedy repeatedly pointed to the state’s interest in protecting the unborn child, although he suggested that he “would personally not” take action to protect unborn babies after a certain point in a pregnancy. 

In response to Kennedy’s initial remarks, the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America issued a statement praising the candidate. “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s stated position is a stark contrast to the Democratic Party’s radical stance of abortion on demand, with no protection for babies or their mothers, right up to the end of pregnancy,” said SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“It recalls a party that most of its leaders today, including Joe Biden before he caved to the extreme Left, have abandoned — one that believed, or at least claimed to believe, that abortion should be ‘rare,’” she added. 

Dannenfelser cited public opinion polling finding majority support among the American public for limiting abortions to the first three months of pregnancy (70%) and enacting a federal law to ban abortions after 15 weeks gestation (60%) before declaring that “Kennedy is one of the few prominent Democrats aligned with the consensus of the people today.” 

A statement posted to his campaign website Sunday attempted to clarify Kennedy’s position on abortion: “Mr. Kennedy 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.” 

After the Kennedy campaign’s apparent walk-back of his support for restricting late-term abortions, Dannenfelser issued a new statement. “Today’s Democratic Party tolerates no debate on abortion, strictly enforcing a platform of abortion on demand right up to birth and paid for by taxpayers,” she lamented. 

“Kennedy is no staunch pro-life advocate,” Dannenfelser insisted. “He merely expressed the consensus of Americans — and a majority of rank-and-file Democrats — that unborn babies should be protected at least when they feel pain by 15 weeks.” 

After noting that “most Democrat leaders refuse to name any protections they support for babies or their mothers,” Dannenfelser stated, “it seems clear someone told Kennedy to step back in line.” According to Dannenfelser, “This speaks volumes about the radical abortion lobby’s grip on party leadership and consultants. The voters deserve to hear directly from Kennedy on where he really stands given the conflicting statements from him versus his campaign.”

As Dannenfelser highlighted in her most recent statement about Kennedy’s position on abortion, his comments at the Iowa State Fair were not the first time he appeared to express support for limiting abortion in some capacity. At a town hall in June, Kennedy touted his advocacy on behalf of “medical freedom and personal bodily autonomy,” stressing that the terms apply to vaccines as well as abortion.

“I don’t think the government should be telling us what to do with our bodies and dictating to Americans what we can and cannot do and I think in the first three months of pregnancy … it’s a woman’s choice,” he proclaimed. Kennedy’s comments implied that he would be open to supporting limits on abortion after the first three months of pregnancy, mirroring what he would tell NBC News two months later. 

The RealClear Politics average of Democratic Primary polls, based on surveys conducted between July 7 and Aug. 4, shows that Kennedy has secured the support of 13.4% of Democratic primary voters. He lags far behind Biden, who has 63.7% support. 

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

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