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Sept. 25, 2020, 6:57 p.m. EDT

Trump leans into wedge issue abortion in late pre-election push for Catholic voters

Pew found Trump winning 52% of Catholic vote over Clinton in 2016, and with a 50%-to-49% polling edge this fall over Biden — himself a lifelong practicing Catholic who says he is personally anti-abortion but considers Roe v. Wade to be settled law

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By Associated Press


Associated Press
President Donald Trump on return to the White House late Tuesday after a rally in Pittsburgh.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump promised Wednesday to sign an executive order that would require health care providers to provide medical care to all babies born alive as he makes an election-year push to appeal to voters who oppose abortion.

The White House did not release further details about the order, but Trump’s announcement follows numerous attempts by GOP lawmakers in Washington and in state capitals around the country to pass legislation that threatens prison for doctors who don’t try to save the life of infants born alive during abortions.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the resulting Supreme Court vacancy offer another opportunity for Trump to appeal to anti-abortion-rights voters.

Organizations representing obstetricians and gynecologists say the law already provides protections to newborns, whether born during a failed abortion or under other circumstances. But when anomalies are so severe that a newborn would die soon after birth, a family may choose what’s known as palliative care or comfort care. This might involve allowing the baby to die naturally without medical intervention.

It is not a crime to forgo sophisticated medical intervention in cases where severe fetal abnormalities leave a newborn with no chance of survival. This has happened on rare occasions in the course of a late-term abortion, according to federal government data.

‘It seems this administration will once again seek a solution to a nonexistent problem. Health-care providers already have an obligation to provide appropriate medical care.’

Jacqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood Action Fund

In a video message Wednesday to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Trump said his “born alive executive order” would ensure that babies born alive no matter the circumstances “receive the medical care that they deserve.”

“This is our sacrosanct moral duty,” Trump said.

Critics said Trump was trying to “score low-hanging political points.”

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“It seems this administration will once again seek a solution to a nonexistent problem,” said Jacqueline Ayers, a vice president at Planned Parenthood’s political advocacy arm, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Health-care providers already have an obligation to provide appropriate medical care.”

Trump’s comments come as his campaign and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden work to win over Roman Catholic voters in the Nov. 3 presidential election. For decades, that group has been a pivotal swing vote in U.S. presidential elections, with a majority backing the winner — whether Republican or Democrat — nearly every time.

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Advocates for Trump say faithful Catholics should not vote for Biden, who is a lifelong practicing Catholic, because of his support for abortion rights. Biden’s stated position is that he is personally opposed to abortion but believes it should remain legal, as the Jesuit-operated magazine America reported this summer.

Critics of Trump say he is divisive and callous and does not merit the votes of conscientious Catholics.

A Pew Research Center poll over the summer found 50% of Catholics saying they support Trump in the presidential election, compared with 49% backing Biden. A Pew analysis of voters in 2016 showed 52% of Catholics voted for Trump.

President Barack Obama carried the Catholic vote in the two previous elections, and Democrats have drawn a majority of the Catholic vote in 13 of the last 17 presidential elections , according to a Georgetown University compilation of historical Gallup data.

Among Catholic voters in the 2018 midterms, 56% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 42% said it should be illegal in all or most cases, according to AP VoteCast.

A 2019 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll showed that nearly 75% of Americans consider Roe v. Wade settled law and do not wish to see that change, even as 61% want to see some restrictions placed on abortion rights, as the Jesuit magazine reported.

AP VoteCast found abortion low on the list of priorities for midterm voters: Just 2% nationwide in 2018 considered abortion the top issue facing the country. About a quarter named health care and immigration; roughly 2 in 10 named the economy and jobs.

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