RFK Jr claims he ‘misunderstood’ question after supporting abortion ban

Presidential contender’s campaign claims he ‘misheard’ reporter’s question to explain total reversal of position

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 14 August 2023 14:01 EDT
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Robert F Kennedy Jr’s campaign is once again in damage control mode after the Democratic primary contender appeared to come out in support of a national abortion ban after three months into a pregnancy.

The latest controversy began on Sunday, when NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Ali Vitali tracked down Mr Kennedy at the Iowa State Fair, a weeklong phenomenon that during election season draws just about every prominent presidential contender to the fairgrounds — not to mention the throngs of no-name contenders who are often present as well.

Mr Kennedy’s campaign teeters somewhere on the edge of seriousness, buoyed by his famous last name and financial support from right-wing operatives eager to weaken President Joe Biden’s reelection bid. He has clashed numerous times with the media and members of the party he is ostensibly a member of over issues including the Covid vaccine, the independence of medical experts, and even antisemitism.

On Sunday, he offered the latest sign that his views more closely align with Donald Trump and the Republican Party: He told Vitali in an interview, with no signs of misunderstanding her question, that he thought abortion should be legal “during the first three months of life”.

Vitali then questioned whether this meant he’d support a federal abortion ban similar to the one currently being advanced by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, which would ban the procedures after 15 weeks into the pregnancy. Mr Kennedy said he would, according to NBC.

But later on Sunday, his campaign claimed that the candidate had not meant what he had said.

“Today, Mr. Kennedy misunderstood a question posed to him by a NBC reporter in a crowded, noisy exhibit hall at the Iowa State Fair. Mr. Kennedy’s position on abortion is that it is always the woman’s right to choose. He does not support legislation banning abortion,” said a campaign spokesperson.

Abortion rights have become a more relevant issue than ever before with the Supreme Court’s decision scrapping Roe vs Wade in 2022. The court’s conservative majority, installed under Donald Trump, ended decades of federal protection for the medical procedure with only a leaked draft decision to provide any warning for the millions of Americans the decision affected.

It became a central issue in the midterm elections later last year, when Democrats swept to victory in several key statewide elections where the issue was front and centre either through direct ballot measures or the vows of Republicans to pass bans should they take power. The issue was one of several reasons blamed for the GOP’s poor performance in the contests, with the party losing ground to the incumbent president’s party in the Senate and barely eking out a tiny majority in the House.

Were Mr Kennedy to formally endorse a national abortion ban after any time period, it would set him apart from every single prominent politician in the party of which he claims to want to lead.

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