Six-Week Abortion Bans Like Mississippi’s Are ‘A Terrible Thing,’ Trump Says

President Donald J. Trump and Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas listen as Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivers remarks
Six-week abortion bans like Mississippi's so-called fetal "heartbeat" law are "a terrible mistake," former President Donald Trump said during an interview on NBC's Meet the Press on Sept. 17, 2023. He is seen here at the Oct. 26, 2020, swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, one of the three justices he appointed who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states like Mississippi to implement near-total abortion bans like the six-week law. Official Trump White House Photo

Laws banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy like Mississippi’s so-called fetal “heartbeat” law are “a terrible mistake,” former President Donald Trump said over the weekend. The ex-president is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination despite being under indictment on dozens of federal and state charges in districts across the nation.

Trump made the remarks while speaking with NBC Meet the Press moderator Kristen Welker for an interview that aired on Sunday. He used the opportunity to criticize one of his opponents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for signing a six-week abortion ban called the Heartbeat Protection Act into law in the Sunshine State. While doctors can detect early cardiac activity at six weeks, “heartbeat” is a misnomer because a heart has not formed at that stage. Both laws are now in effect following the Dobbs decision. 

“DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban,” Trump said in the Sunday interview. “I think what he did was a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”

The former president’s criticisms come despite the fact that he appointed the U.S. Supreme Court justices whose votes were pivotal for overturning Roe v. Wade—and the guarantee of abortion rights nationwide—last year. That case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, was over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that the Legislature passed in 2018. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a national Christian legal group with ties to Christian dominionists, said that year that they wrote the 15-week legislation and shopped it to lawmakers as part of a strategy for kickstarting a case that could lead to the fall of the 1973 Roe precedent. A year later, in 2019, state lawmakers passed the state’s law banning abortions once cardiac activity becomes detectable, or around six weeks. Then-Gov. Phil Bryant, a Trump ally, signed it into law. Then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, another Trump ally who became governor in 2020, oversaw its passage in the Senate.

Trump: ‘I Was Able to Kill Roe v. Wade’

During the 2016 election, Trump vowed to appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In May 2023, the former president boasted on his social media platform that he deserved credit for the Dobbs ruling that has since resulted in severe restrictions or near-total abortion bans in dozens of states across the country, including Mississippi.

“After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone,” Trump wrote in May.  “… Without me there would be no 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to. Without me the pro Life movement would have just kept losing.”

photo shows a woman in a pink vest with the words "PINK HOUSE DEFENDERS" on it speaking into a megaphone while standing in front of the Mississippi Capitol building
Mississippi’s six-week abortion ban became effective after a federal judge lifted an injunction on Sept. 21, 2022, limiting rape exceptions to only six weeks. Seen here, Pink House Defender Derenda Hancock spoke up against the law in front of the Mississippi Capitol Building in Jackson on May 21, 2019. Photo by Ashton Pittman

The former Republican president, whose criminal charges include his actions that led up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, appointed three of the six judges who overturned Roe v. Wade, including Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

In 2019, as lawmakers were debating Mississippi’s six-week abortion ban, State Sen. Joey Fillingane, a Sumrall Republican who was among the 15-week ban’s sponsors, told this reporter in the Jackson Free Press that Trump’s 2018 appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh meant that “now would be a good time to start testing the limits of Roe.” That was before the U.S. Senate confirmed Barrett and guaranteed an anti-Roe majority on the Supreme Court.

But since the June 2022 Dobbs decision, many Republicans have attributed electoral losses to anger over the Dobbs decision. Even in Mississippi, polls have found that most voters oppose the decision.

Anti-Abortion Groups Criticize Trump

Some Republicans in Congress have proposed nationwide abortion bans. In 2022, U.S. House Rep. Michael Guest, who represents Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, introduced a national “heartbeat” bill that would ban abortions across the country after about six weeks. Like the state law, it includes no exceptions for rape. Other Republicans, like U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have proposed a national 15-week abortion ban.

Such bills have virtually no chance of passing, however, so long as President Joe Biden remains in office and Democrats maintain their narrow 51-49 majority in the upper chamber. During the Welker interview, Trump did not say whether or not he would sign a 15-week ban. “I would sit down with both sides and negotiate on something and we’d end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years,” he said.

The Catholic News Agency reported on Monday that anti-abortion activists across the country are harshly criticizing Trump for his opposition to “heartbeat” laws. CNA reported that Shawn Carney, the founder of 40 Days For Life, said “Trump is accurately labeled as the most pro-life president ever, by far,” but “continues to alienate those who elected him and shrink his base.” 

Trump’s election “paid off greatly with the overturning of Roe but instead of bragging about his record, Trump has treated being pro-life as if it’s something we need to apologize for,” CNA reported him saying.

After Trump’s criticism of “heartbeat” laws aired on Sunday, Alliance Defending Freedom CEO Kristen Waggoner criticized Trump in a tweet.

“Laws protecting the unborn are not a ‘terrible mistake,'” she tweeted. “They are the hallmark of a just and moral society. Governors who protect life should be applauded, not attacked.”


Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.