(WASHINGTON) -- Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Tuesday made a her case for a "consensus" on abortion, an issue that continues to divide conservatives. But she stopped short of adopting strict stances -- such as embracing or rejecting a national ban at a certain week in pregnancy -- beyond saying the government needed to have some role and stressed that she wanted fewer abortions in the country.
"My record on abortion is long and clear. ... I want to save as many lives and help as many moms as possible. That is my goal. To do that at the federal level, the next president must find national consensus," Haley said in remarks at the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America's office in Virginia on Tuesday morning.
Haley, the first woman to serve as governor of South Carolina, reaffirmed her anti-abortion position, saying her priority as a candidate is to "save as many babies as we can while supporting women in difficult situations."
But as leading Republicans like former Vice President Mike Pence have heartedly endorsed some sort of federal ban on abortion -- and only days after prospective 2024 candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly signed a six-week abortion ban into law -- Haley took another stance.
"I do believe there is a federal role on abortion. Whether we can save more lives nationally depends entirely on doing what no one has done to date: finding consensus," she said. "That's what I will strive to do."
"Abortion is a deeply personal topic for both women and men," she said. "I understand why. Someone's body and someone else's life are not things to be taken lightly, and they should not be politicized. The issue should be addressed with sensitivity and respect, not judgment and hate."
In the wake of Roe v. Wade being reversed by the Supreme Court last summer, a series of state-level laws on abortion access have since rippled across the country, leading to numerous legal and legislative battles.
Voters have also repeatedly backed abortion access when it is on the ballot, in Kentucky, Michigan, Vermont and elsewhere.
"The pro-life laws that have passed in strongly Republican states will not be approved at the federal level," Haley said in her speech, a seeming nod to the belief that a national abortion ban is not politically feasible, even if she were president.
Haley did offer some broad ideas regarding abortion and reproductive rights, including supporting adoptive families, advocating for "pro-life doctors and nurses," limiting elective late-term abortions, increasing access to contraception and, in a subtle rebuke of a minority of her Republican colleagues, opposing efforts to criminalize women who get abortions.
"Surely, we can all agree that abortion up until the time of birth is a bridge too far," she said. "Only seven countries on earth allow elective late-term abortions. We're talking brutal regimes like communist China and North Korea. We should be able to agree that contraception should be more available, not less. And we can all agree that women who get abortions should not be jailed. A few have even called for the death penalty. That's the least pro-life position I can possibly imagine."
In response to her speech, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson sought to paint Haley as an extremist "MAGA Republican" and pointed to her time as governor, when she signed a 20-week abortion ban in South Carolina in 2016.
"She's already signed an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest that threatened to throw doctors and nurses in jail," DNC spokesperson Rhyan Lake said, in part. "2024 Republicans are clamoring to prove they'd be the most extreme, anti-choice nominee in history in a desperate chase to out-MAGA each other, and they'll stop at nothing to completely ban abortion nationwide."
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