By Jeff Louderback
Greeted by a sizable crowd chanting “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 12, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that he would support a national ban on abortion after the first three months of pregnancy if elected.
The next morning, a campaign spokesperson said, “Mr. Kennedy misunderstood a question posed to him by an NBC reporter in a crowded, noisy exhibit hall at the Iowa State Fair.
“Mr. Kennedy’s position on abortion is that it is always the woman’s right to choose. He does not support legislation banning abortion,” the spokesperson noted.
NBC News congressional reporter Ali Vitali asked the question. Following the response from Mr. Kennedy’s campaign, Ms. Vitali posted a transcript of her complete exchange with Mr. Kennedy at X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“Here’s the full exchange with Kennedy, in which I ask the questions multiple times to make sure we’re understanding—even at one point saying I was surprised by the stance,” Ms. Vitali said in her post.
Also on Aug. 13, Mr. Kennedy told NBC, “I believe a decision to abort a child should be up to the women during the first three months of life.
“Once a child is viable, outside the womb, I think then the state has an interest in protecting the child,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I’m for medical freedom. Individuals are able to make their own choices.”
When Mr. Kennedy delivered his original comments about abortion on Aug. 12, the Susan B. Anthony List, a leading conservative anti-abortion organization, praised his position, describing it in a statement as “a stark contrast to the Democratic Party’s radical stance of abortion on demand. Kennedy is one of the few prominent Democrats aligned with the consensus of the people today. Every candidate should be asked, ‘Where do you draw the line?’”
Abortion a Hot-Button Issue
Abortion is expected to be a hot-button issue in the 2024 presidential election and in 2024 U.S. Senate and House races.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which gave the constitutional right for women to have abortions around 50 years ago. Since then, several Republican-led states have introduced or enacted abortion bans or restrictions.
Some states have rejected initiatives to ban or restrict abortions. Last week, Ohio voters rejected a measure that would have required 60 percent support to pass a constitutional amendment instead of the current 50 percent plus one format. In November, Ohioans will head to the polls to determine if a ballot measure will enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution.
Mr. Kennedy’s stance on abortion could have an impact on his support from conservatives in the 2024 Democratic primary.
Since announcing his candidacy to challenge President Joe Biden in the 2024 Democratic primary, Mr. Kennedy has gained support from conservatives, moderates, independents, and liberals. He has also generated criticism from people from each group for certain stances.
Some conservative voters in states with open primaries have told The Epoch Times that they will cast their ballot for Mr. Kennedy.
RFK Jr. Has High Favorability
Days after a House hearing on censorship last month that saw Democrats attempt to prevent Mr. Kennedy from testifying, a Harvard-Harris poll showed that he has a higher favorability rating than any other presidential candidate.
Mr. Kennedy saw a favorable rating of 47 percent and a unfavorable mark of 26 percent, according to the survey, which was released on July 23 and conducted July 19–20 among 2,068 registered voters.
Former president Donald Trump carried a favorability rating of 45 percent compared with an unfavorability number of 49 percent. Florida governor Ron DeSantis had a 40 percent favorable rating and 37 percent unfavorable, and President Joe Biden has 39 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable ratings.
Dismissed as a longshot candidate by many political pundits, Mr. Kennedy also had the highest net favorability of all 2024 presidential candidates in a June poll from The Economist/YouGov.
Mr. Kennedy is the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of both President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy.
An environmental attorney and the founder of Children’s Health Defense, Mr. Kennedy is widely known for his vocal stance on the dangers of the COVID-19 vaccines and of vaccines in general.
Backing from those who are not left-leaning is also mounting because Mr. Kennedy differs from Mr. Biden and progressive Democrats on multiple issues.
Mr. Kennedy has for example, called for de-escalating the war in Ukraine.
He also has said that, initially, he was not in favor of Mr. Trump’s border wall. But after seeing the border firsthand in Arizona in July, Mr. Kennedy changed his mind. He said there is a need for increased infrastructure and technology at the border, including more segments of a physical wall, and sensors in areas where a wall isn’t feasible.
About gun control, Mr. Kennedy said, “I do not believe that, within that Second Amendment, there is anything we can meaningfully do to reduce the trade and the ownership of guns.”
“Anybody who tells you that they’re going to reduce gun violence through gun control at this point, I don’t think is being realistic,” he said. “I think we have to think about other ways to reduce that violence.”
Mr. Kennedy did note that he would sign an assault weapons ban if he were president and the legislation was placed on his desk. He also said at a town hall in July that “there will be nobody in the Oval Office who is more supportive of LGBTQ rights than I am,” and that he would legalize marijuana and psychedelic drugs—all points that many Democrats favor.
While speaking at the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Mr. Kennedy also said that he would not serve as Mr. Trump’s running mate if asked.
He added that he is seeking the presidency “to end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power.”
Opposition to Proposed Pipelines
Mr. Kennedy drew loud applause when he noted his opposition to proposed carbon-capture pipelines that could cross around Iowa and other Midwestern states.
He also expressed concern about the loss of family farms to sprawling stretches of land owned by big corporations.
Several companies have proposed the construction of pipelines that would carry liquefied carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to other facilities for underground burial. The pipelines have generated controversy in Iowa regarding concerns over eminent domain and the environment.
During Mr. Kennedy’s address at the Iowa State Fair, former Democratic Ohio U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who serves as the candidate’s campaign manager, held a map illustrating where the proposed pipelines would lead through multiple Iowa counties en route to Illinois.
Mr. Kennedy continued his criticism of the U.S. economy under the Biden administration, noting that “57 percent of the people in this country are not making enough money to pay for basic duties like food, shelter, and transportation.”
He added that he “spent a lot of time around the middle part of this country including Columbiana County in Ohio, where lives are still upended by [the] Norfolk Southern [toxic train derailment].”
“I’m seeing Americans live at a level of desperation I never thought I would see in this country,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Mr. Kennedy is not expected to receive support from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which earlier this year voted to give its full support to President Biden.
The DNC also voted this year to strip the Iowa caucuses of their first-in-the-nation status. It remains uncertain when Iowa Democrats will have its caucuses.
Speculation has mounted that Mr. Kennedy could run as an independent, but Mr. Kucinich has said that is not the plan. Mr. Kennedy has reiterated that he will challenge Mr. Biden, regardless of the perceived long odds.
“I’m a Democrat. This is who I am,” Mr. Kennedy at a July town hall. “This is my identity, but I want my party back.”
Mr. Kennedy has said he is running for president because he believes his party “has lost its way” and that he wants to “remind the Democratic Party of what we are supposed to represent.”
Among the values that Mr. Kennedy believes have been lost are “a focus on the middle class and labor, the well-being of minorities, a focus on the environment, civil liberties, and freedom of speech.”