Arlington, Va. — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley called for a national consensus on the issue of abortion on Tuesday during an address from the headquarters of the influential anti-abortion group SBA List Pro-Life America.
“We have to face this reality,” Haley told reporters. “The pro-life laws that have passed in strongly Republican states will not be approved at the federal level. That’s just a fact notwithstanding what the Democrat fearmongers say.”
“They say Republicans are about to ban all abortions nationwide and send women to prison. These wildly false claims amplified by a sympathetic media are not designed to do anything other than score political points,” she said.
Haley also called on Republican candidates to take a firmer stance on abortion, while painting Democratic candidates as extreme on the issue.
“Pro-life political leaders and candidates should not put up with being demonized. We should call out the extremism on the left,” she said.
During the address, Haley invoked her husband’s experience of being adopted and her own experience initially having issues becoming pregnant with her children as apart of her anti-abortion beliefs.
“My goal as president will be the same as it was when I was governor and ambassador — to save as many lives, and help as many moms, as possible,” she said.
Haley also touted her anti-abortion record in South Carolina’s state legislature and as governor. The former governor spoke about her decision and the decision of South Carolina lawmakers to take down the Confederate flag in front of the South Carolina State House in 2015, pointing to it as proof that consensus can be reached between Republicans and Democrats,
“We found consensus on a very tough issue,” she recalled.
Haley’s comments to SBA Pro-Life America come after the group hit former President Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP primary, last week following his remarks that the issue of abortion access should be left up to the states, not the federal government. The group called Trump’s stance a “morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate.”
SBA Pro-Life America praised Haley’s speech on Tuesday, referencing in a statement “Haley’s commitment to acting on the American consensus against late-term abortion by protecting unborn children by at least 15 weeks when they can feel excruciating pain.”
However, Haley did not state a specific limit on abortion restrictions in her address. When asked for clarification following the speech, an SBA spokespersons told The Hill they were “assured she would set national consensus at 15 weeks.”
When asked for comment, a Haley campaign official said the ambassador was “very clear in her speech.”
“She believes there is a federal role to play in protecting as many babies and helping as many moms as possible,” the official said. “She wants to work on finding national consensus on a host of pro-life positions, like banning late-term abortion.”
Other announced and potential candidates have spoken about stances on abortion. South Carolina Gov. Tim Scott (R) said earlier this month that he would “literally sign the most conservative, pro-life legislation that they can get through Congress.” Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a six week abortion ban into law, banning most abortions in the state.
Republicans have been grappling with how to message on abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, punting the legality of the issue to the states. The issue had a galvanizing effect on Democratic voters and swayed Independent voters during last year’s midterm elections. Last year, 27 percent of voters said that abortion was the most important issue in deciding their vote, coming in only behind inflation at 32 percent, according to exit polling from NBC News.
Democrats have continued to capitalize on the issue since. Earlier this month liberals regained the majority for the first time in 15 years after Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz made abortion access a top issue in the campaign.
On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee rolled out a digital video painting Republican presidential candidates — including Haley — as “extreme” on the issue.
Various Republicans, including RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, have called on their candidates to go on the offensive on the issue by painting Democrats as extreme.
Updated: 3:37 p.m.