Donald Trump said on Twitter over the weekend that Georgia and Alabama’s anti-abortion laws had gone too far.
The statement is consistent with the position he took on the issue during his campaign. But it’s a giant shift from Trump’s thoughts on the issue for most of his adult life. In fact, it was only as he prepared a run for president that his views shifted from pro-choice to pro-life. Here is a clip from Meet the Press two decades ago:
Trump first went public with his new opinion on abortion at the same time he was falsely claiming that then-presidential candidate, Barack Obama, was not a US citizen. Both claims appeared to be strategic as he considered a run for president in 2012.
Trump attempted to explain why he had changed his mind on abortion to the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2011:
I’m pro-life, but I changed my view a number of years ago. One of the reasons I changed—one of the primary reasons—a friend of mine’s wife was pregnant, in this case married.
She was pregnant and he didn’t really want the baby. And he was telling me the story. He was crying as he was telling me the story. He ends up having the baby and the baby is the apple of his eye. It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him.
In the interview, Trump flagged the issue as one he’d champion if he was president. A month later, he outlined the strategy he’s now following to the New York Times. “I am pro life, and pro-life people will find out that I will be very loyal to them, just as I am loyal to other people. I would be appointing judges that feel the way I feel,” he said.
Then, in 2013, he called into the Howard Stern show, where the incredulous host grilled him on his position: “Are you really anti-abortion? You’re not. I know you’re not,” he said. Trump replied, “Well, it’s never been my big issue.” He then several times declares himself pro-life.
On the campaign trail in 2016, he told MSNBC he wanted to not only ban abortion altogether but also enact repercussions for those that do seek abortions. “There has to be some form of punishment,” he said.
That interview sparked widespread outcry. So the Trump’s campaign clarified what he meant in a statement that echoed the position he took over the weekend:
Despite his long-ago change of heart, some conservatives remain concerned that Trump’s personal history with abortion—if it ever became public—could still alienate pro-life voters. The president refused to answer questions on the topic during the 2016 campaign.
While Trump’s about-face on the issue appeared to be a political calculation, it’s unclear how helpful it will really be outside of his base. About 6 in 10 Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And about 7 in 10 oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that found it unconstitutional for states to ban abortion within the first three months of a pregnancy.