American Autocracy: Tracking Trump on Abortion

Trump’s previous comments on abortion make him a clear threat to reproductive rights.

Former President Donald Trump at the 47th annual “March for Life” in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2020. Trump is the first U.S. president to address the country’s biggest annual gathering of anti-abortion campaigners. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump has said he will be a dictator on “day one.” He and his advisors and associates have publicly discussed hundreds of further actions to be taken during a second Trump presidency that directly threaten democracy, the rule of law, as well as U.S. (and global) security. We ignore leaders who promise dictatorship—and those who enable them—at our own peril. The United States, like many other functioning democracies, is hardly immune from backsliding and lurching toward autocracy.

In this three-part American Autocracy series, we track Trump’s comments on feminist issues. This installment: the threat a Trump presidency poses for abortion. Future installments will document Trump’s threats the LGBTQ+ community and his perceived enemies.

The autocracy threat tracker was originally published on Just Security, an online forum for the rigorous analysis of security, democracy, foreign policy and rights. The authors will continue to update that version of the tracker. Below is an excerpt.

Trump’s Draconian Abortion Access Crackdown

Trump recently signaled his support for a national abortion ban.

  • Trump said in a private conversation on Feb. 16, 2024, that such a ban would prohibit abortions starting at 16 weeks. “Know what I like about 16? It’s even. It’s four months.”

“Allies of former President Donald J. Trump and officials who served in his administration are planning ways to restrict abortion rights if he returns to power that would go far beyond proposals for a national ban or the laws enacted in conservative states across the country,” according to the New York Times.

The Project 2025 agenda would roll back abortion access expansions under the Biden administration and go even further by restricting abortion medication.

Trump took credit for overturning Roe v. Wade and helping states institute abortion bans.

  • May 17, 2023, Truth Social: “After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone, and for the first time put the Pro Life movement in a strong negotiating position over the Radicals that are willing to kill babies even into their 9th month, and beyond. 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. Thank you President TRUMP!!!”

Anti-abortion groups with ties to Trump and the conservative movement have plans to use the presidency to limit abortion access.

Trump has expressed support for punishing women that receive abortions, though he later walked back his comments.

  • Trump said in an interview on March 30, 2016, that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who receive abortions if it is banned.

In the edition of the tracker published on Just Security, the authors suggest several bipartisan solutions to autocratic threats. Read them here.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About , , , , and

Ambassador Norman Eisen (ret.) served in the White House as special counsel and special assistant to the president for ethics and government reform and as ambassador to the Czech Republic under President Barack Obama, as well as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee from 2019–20, including for the first impeachment and trial of President Donald Trump. He’s on X/Twitter at @NormEisen.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is professor of history and Italian studies at New York University. She writes about fascism, authoritarianism and propaganda—and the threats these present to democracies around the world.
Siven Watt is a legal fellow at Just Security. He’s on X/Twitter at @SivenWatt .
Andrew Warren has served as the duly-elected state attorney in Tampa, Fla., since 2016. Warren previously served as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He’s on X/Twitter at @AndrewWarrenFL. .
Jacob Kovacs-Goodman is an elections and technology lawyer. He’s on X/Twitter at @JNKGoodman.
Francois Barrilleaux is a research assistant at State Democracy Defenders Action where he project manages amicus briefs, op-eds and legal essays. He’s on X/Twitter at @FrenchwaEB.