WASHINGTON, Sept 28 – U.S. Republican presidential contender Ron DeSantis would sign a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, a spokesperson confirmed on Thursday, underlining how the Florida governor has stiffened his rhetoric on the procedure in recent weeks.
DeSantis initially made the remarks during the second Republican primary debate on Wednesday night in California. He was responding to South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who asked him if he would sign such a ban as president.
“Yes, I will,” DeSantis responded at the time.
The exchange was difficult to make out due to significant amounts of crosstalk among the debate participants and moderators.
However, The Daily Signal, a news outlet run by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, picked up on the remark and confirmed the nature of the exchange with the DeSantis campaign. A campaign spokesperson later confirmed the exchange to Reuters.
Many abortion rights activists say 15-week bans are particularly egregious because some medical tests that detect serious health issues of the fetus cannot be confirmed until closer to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
But he had generally dodged questions about whether he would support a federal ban, and if so, after how many weeks of gestation.
In recent weeks, DeSantis, whose campaign is aggressively courting religious conservatives, has doubled down on his opposition to abortion rights in interviews and digital ads. Much of that criticism is aimed at former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner, who called DeSantis’ decision to sign a six-week ban in Florida “a terrible thing” during an interview earlier this month.
All other Republicans in the primary field say they are against abortion, but some have declined to support a federal ban or have dodged questions about the matter. Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence have pledged to sign an abortion ban of 15 weeks or less should they be elected. Former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has said she would sign a federal abortion ban as well, but has stressed that Congress is unlikely to pass such a measure.
Trump has largely avoided the issue, saying at times that he would be open to looking at a federal ban of some kind, while also saying it is an issue states should deal with and that severe anti-abortion stances will cost Republicans elections.
Reporting by Gram Slattery; editing by Timothy Gardner
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Washington-based correspondent covering campaigns and Congress. Previously posted in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Santiago, Chile, and has reported extensively throughout Latin America. Co-winner of the 2021 Reuters Journalist of the Year Award in the business coverage category for a series on corruption and fraud in the oil industry. He was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College.
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