Candidates Voice Support For National Abortion Ban – Rolling Stone

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came to Wednesday’s GOP debate with a story to tell about “a lady in Florida named Penny” who “survived multiple abortion attempts.”

“She was left discarded in a pan,” DeSantis said. “Fortunately, her grandmother saved her and brought her to a different hospital.” To DeSantis, the story illustrated the distinction between Republicans like himself and Democrats, who would have left Penny to die in that pan. Democrats, DeSantis said, want “to allow abortion all the way up to the moment of birth.” 

This is a popular lie among Republican candidates for elected office, intended to suggest that late-term abortions are common or casual decisions. In fact, abortions beyond 21 weeks make up less than 1 percent of such procedures, and the circumstances usually involve devastating medical conditions that threaten either the pregnant person’s life or their child’s.

Online, many debate viewers expressed skepticism about the anecdote; the DeSantis’ campaign did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for more information. But the most incredible thing about DeSantis’ “Penny” story is that it wasn’t even the wildest thing the eight GOP candidates for president said about abortion on stage in Milwaukee on Wednesday. 

Mike Pence spoke about the ecstatic moment when he realized that he would dedicate the rest of his life to making it more onerous and expensive and time-consuming for women everywhere to make medical decisions. “After I gave my life to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I opened up the book and I read: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,’” Pence recalled. 

DeSantis, who a few months ago signed a six-week abortion ban into law in Florida, was asked what he would say to people who said such a ban — one that prohibits the procedure so early that many women may not even know they are pregnant — would be a tough “sell’ nationally. “I would say we sold the biggest election landslide victory in the history of the Republican Party in the state of Florida in 2022,” he replied.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — who also signed a six-week ban in his own state — was the only candidate who said outright that he was opposed to a national abortion ban. “What is going to work in New York will never work in North Dakota and vice versa,” Burgum reasoned. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott begged to differ: “We cannot let states like California, New York and Illinois have abortions on demand up until the day of birth. That is immoral. It is unethical. It is wrong.”

The only person on the stage who even came close to making any kind of sense on the issue of abortion was former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who called it a “deeply personal issue” that shouldn’t have been decided by “unelected justices.” Among the other, surprisingly reasonable ideas Haley floated were: “Can’t we all agree that contraception should be available? And can’t we all agree that we are not going to put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion?”

A national abortion ban, Haley argued, is simply not practical: “It will take 60 Senate votes, and a majority in the House… We don’t have 60 Senate votes.” 

Haley is only partly right on this: If a highly motivated, deeply committed anti-abortion evangelist (Mike Pence, for instance) were elected president, there are many ways that that person could impose their agenda on the country at large. One idea, resurgent among anti-abortion lawyers and judges, is to bring back the Comstock Act, which prohibits the mailing of any implement that could be used in an abortion.


As Mary Zeigler, a law professor and an expert on the history of abortion in American politics, told Rolling Stone recently: “Every abortion involves something that came in the mail… If a Republican is elected or not, period, but also which Republican is elected or not could really change the [anti-abortion] movement’s fortunes.”

Haley, for her part, was asked in May if a national abortion ban did pass Congress whether she would sign it into law as president. “Yes, of course I would sign it,” she replied.

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