RFK Jr. Changes Abortion Stance After Pushback

A day after receiving backlash over a comment that he supported abortion at full term, Mr. Kennedy said he changed his stance after listening to advisers.
RFK Jr. Changes Abortion Stance After Pushback
Presidental candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attends a rally at the Val Air Ballroom in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 13, 2024. (Kathryn Gamble for The Epoch Times)
Jeff Louderback

An early campaign promise Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made when he was still running in the Democrat primary last year has seen a stern test in recent weeks amid his comment that he supported abortion up to full term.

Mr. Kennedy told The Epoch Times last August that he preferred to have advisers and team members who don’t fully share his views and, as a candidate and president, he would listen to differing opinions and even change his mind if presented with a convincing argument.

In May, a podcast interview with Sage Steele created a firestorm where Mr. Kennedy received a widespread backlash.

He said that women should be able to terminate their pregnancy “even if it’s full term.”

The comment drew criticism from pro-life groups and multiple people within his campaign.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in a statement that Mr. Kennedy “has exposed himself as a true extremist” who “is no different from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris when it comes to supporting brutal abortions at any time for no reason, even when babies in the womb feel pain, with zero limits or exceptions.”

Angela Stanton King, a pro-life advocate and an adviser to Mr. Kennedy’s campaign, has contributed insight on black voter outreach, and criminal justice and abortion policies.

She denounced the candidate’s view on backing full-term abortion on social media.

Nicole Shanahan, Mr. Kennedy’s running mate, sat down for a talk with Ms. Steele that was released a week before Mr. Kennedy’s interview aired.

Ms. Shanahan said that she was unaware that the candidate did not support limits on abortion.

“My understanding with Bobby’s position is that, you know, every abortion is a tragedy, is a loss of life,” Ms. Shanahan said, adding that she thought that he believed in limits on abortion and, perhaps, there was a miscommunication in his interview.

A day after the interview with Sage Steele aired, Mr. Kennedy reiterated his early campaign promise that he would “always be willing to listen to people and change my position.”

“I support the emerging consensus that abortion should be unrestricted up until a certain point.

“I believe that point should be when the baby is viable outside the womb.

“Therefore, I would allow appropriate restrictions on abortion in the final months of pregnancy, just as Roe v. Wade did,” he wrote on X.

He noted that “even in the reddest of red states, voters reject total abortion bans.”

Mr. Kennedy has stressed that he does not like abortion, but he said he does not trust the government “to have jurisdiction over people’s bodies.”

2024 presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (R) speaks with his vice presidential pick Nicole Shanahan (L) in Oakland, Calif., on March 26, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
2024 presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (R) speaks with his vice presidential pick Nicole Shanahan (L) in Oakland, Calif., on March 26, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

That stance aligns with Mr. Kennedy’s longtime support for medical freedom and bodily autonomy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he attracted public attention with his vocal opposition to vaccine and mask mandates.

Mr. Kennedy finished his post by describing a proposed policy called “More Choices, More Life,” which he believes will reduce abortion by supporting women who want to give birth.

The platform features a plan for universally affordable childcare that will cap childcare expenses at 10 percent for most families.

Almost three-quarters of women cite economic reasons to explain why they chose to abort a pregnancy, Mr. Kennedy explained.

He vowed that his administration would “support women in need so that abortion isn’t their only choice.”

Ms. King praised Mr. Kennedy for the adjustment.

“After a bunch of going back and forth, and not only by me, but also people on the campaign, we’ve all come to the agreement that late-term abortion is not something that this campaign is going to support,” she said in a video posted on X.

“This is what you get when you begin to work in the independent space,” she added, noting that the campaign is composed of conservatives, Democrats, and Libertarians; and people who are for and against abortion.

Mr. Kennedy announced his candidacy to challenge President Joe Biden for the 2024 nomination in April 2023.

Claiming that the Democratic National Committee was “rigging the primary” to favor President Biden, he decided to run as an independent last October.

Ms. King remarked that the campaign team has members with varying views, but they work to find “the best solution.”

Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Shanahan do not fully agree on the abortion issue.

His position differs from Ms. Shanahan’s in that he believes the cutoff should be at fetal viability.

However, both are aligned with the emerging national consensus of no restrictions up until a certain point and restrictions thereafter, Stefanie Spear told The Epoch Times in a statement.

Many medical professionals believe fetal viability occurs at 23 to 24 weeks of gestation.

Ms. Shanahan said in a podcast interview last week that the preferred limits on abortion move “between 15 and 18 weeks.”

In previous conversations with The Epoch Times, Mr. Kennedy has acknowledged that his position on the issue could cost him conservative votes.

“If you’re a one-issue voter, and that’s something that you deeply care about, I might not be the right candidate for you.

“But I feel like there’s a lot of people now who want authenticity in their political leadership, and they want somebody who’s going to tell them the truth,” he told The Epoch Times last year.

Most Americans base their votes on a range of issues and are most concerned about the direction of the country, Mr. Kennedy believes.

“I will talk to people regardless of their views and will assure them that I will listen to them, even if they don’t vote for me,” he told The Epoch Times.

“I want to talk to media members and voters who share differing opinions than mine, because how else are you going to persuade?”

Abortion is not the first stance Mr. Kennedy has changed during his presidential campaign, which was launched as a Democrat in April 2023 before he opted to run as an independent last October.

Mr. Kennedy said that, initially, he wasn’t in favor of President Trump’s border wall.

But after seeing the border firsthand in Arizona last July, he changed his mind.

He said there’s a need for increased infrastructure and technology at the border, including more segments of a physical wall and sensors in areas where a wall isn’t feasible.

Theo Wilson, an adviser to Mr. Kennedy’s presidential bid, said at a voter rally in Colorado on May 19 that “it’s impossible” to see eye to eye on everything in an independent campaign.

Mr. Wilson remarked that he did not agree with the candidate on some issues, “but this is not like any other campaign when the people they’re in are expected to be just mouthpieces” of their candidate.

“In an independent campaign like the size of this one, you’re going to have to sit across the table and hammer out agreements.

“You got to sit there like adults and figure out a path forward, and the one who sets the tone for that is Robert F. Kennedy Jr.”

Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
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