White House hopeful Nikki Haley tries to ride the fence on abortion issue

by Jacob Fuller

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said on Tuesday she was personally against abortion but bore no ill will for those who felt differently, in a rare foray by a Republican White House hopeful into one of the more sensitive issues of the 2024 U.S. election campaign.

In a roughly 20-minute speech, Haley described the debate around abortion as an issue for each state to decide.

While she would favor legislation restricting abortion at the federal level, she said that as a practical matter, Republicans were unlikely to win the majorities needed in Congress to enact their agenda.

For the time being, she said, all Americans would need to work to establish a consensus on the issue.

“I believe in conversation. I believe in empathy. I believe in compassion, not anger,” said Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and the only female candidate in the Republican presidential race. “I don’t judge someone who is pro-choice any more than I want them to judge me for being pro-life.”

While a significant chunk of the party’s base is fervently opposed to the procedure, most Americans, including many Republicans, think it should be legal in some situations. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll this month, 43% of Republicans said they were less likely to vote for a politician who supports limiting access to abortion.

Haley and her staff have often portrayed her as uniquely positioned to talk about abortion and other issues that affect women, given that all other candidates in the Republican field are men. During the speech, Haley spoke of personal experiences, including her own difficulty conceiving.


Off the campaign trail, some Republicans are criticizing the party’s handling of the issue.

Nancy Mace, a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives from Haley’s home state of South Carolina, said in an interview with ABC on Sunday that Republicans would “lose huge” if they kept pushing restrictive abortion policies.

Haley, who as governor signed a ban on abortions after 19 weeks of gestation, did not offer any new policy proposals and largely avoided specifics altogether.

She did not bring up the topic of abortion medication, which became a hot topic after a federal judge limited the distribution of abortion pill mifepristone in April, a decision that the Supreme Court put on hold.

Haley’s comments were similar to those she made to a group of Republican women in Iowa earlier in April, when she called abortion a “personal decision” and urged Republicans to not “let this become a political football.”

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters