Donald Trump's triumph on Election Day left many journalists and experts wondering just how he managed to clinch the presidency. A report by the Atlantic found some hints: Among the population that supported Trump, religious groups favored him most — 81% of white evangelical Christians and 60% of Catholics voted for the GOP candidate. For the most part, churchgoers supported him because of his anti-abortion stance.
Recently, LifeNews.com, a website that describes itself as "an independent news agency to reporting news that affects the pro-life community," gave Trump an "A+" grade for the "pro-life appointments" to his Cabinet. Recent selections Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Betsy DeVos and Ben Carson are all anti-abortion.
However, LifeNews.com also recognized that Trump has not always been anti-abortion, calling him a "recent convert to the pro-life position," adding that he "never appeared comfortable talking about the subject of abortion." LifeSite also admitted that Trump "was pro-abortion up until birth until a very short time ago, and was so unfamiliar with the basic positions held by the pro-life movement."
So where does Trump really stand? This is what we found out.
He once said he's "pro-choice in every respect"
In a 1999 interview with Meet the Press, then-host Tim Russert asked if a "President Trump would ban partial birth abortion," to which Trump responded: "I am very pro-choice. ... I am strongly for choice and yet I hate the concept of abortion. I am pro-choice in every respect."
Trump's stated pro-abortion position goes at least as far back as 1989 when he cosponsored a dinner at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan — a property he owned at the time — to honor Robin Chandler, a former president of the National Abortion Rights Action League.
From "pro-choice" to "pro-life"
Fast forward to 2015 and you'll see Donald Trump's 180-degree change on abortion. In an interview with Bloomberg's Mark Halperin, Trump said that he is "pro-life, with the caveats." He added that he would support abortion if the mother's life is in danger or in instances of rape or incest.
It remained a mystery as to why Trump shifted his position on reproductive rights until he offered an explanation during the first Republican primary debate in August 2015:
"I hate the concept of abortion. And then since then, I've very much evolved. And what happened is friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn't aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child. And I saw that. And I saw other instances. And I am very, very proud to say that I'm pro-life."
In a 2016 sit-down interview with MSNBC, host Chris Matthews asked about the legal ramifications for women practicing abortion. Trump responded that abortion is a form of murder and as such, "you have to deal with it under the law. ... There has to be some sort of punishment."
Trump's comments drew intense criticism, which forced his campaign team to release a statement about abortion: "the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb."
What about Roe v. Wade?
During the third presidential debate, Trump was not entirely clear about his stance on the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision. The following quote reveals, however, that the decision could be overturned under a Trump administration:
"If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that is really what will happen. That will happen automatically in my opinion. Because I am putting pro-life justices on the court."
But perhaps Trump's most gruesome comment on the subject came after moderator Chris Wallace asked him about late-term partial birth abortions:
"Well, I think it's terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take baby [sic] and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that it is okay and Hillary can say it is okay, but it's not okay with me. Because based on what she is saying and based on where she's going and where's she's been, you can take baby [sic] and rip the baby out of the womb. In the ninth month. On the final day. And that's not acceptable."
After Trump's remark, Hillary Clinton said that "using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate."