(CNN) — Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson said Sunday he would sign a federal abortion ban if he were elected president but would support exceptions.
“I would support the restrictions, and I would advocate for the exceptions of the life of the mother and the cases of rape and incest,” the former Arkansas governor said on CNN’s “State of the Union” in an interview with Dana Bash. “I believe that’s where the American public is. I don’t think anything will come out of Congress without those exceptions. And I certainly would sign a pro-life bill, but I would expect those exceptions to be in place.”
As governor in 2021, Hutchinson signed a near-total abortion ban into law that did not include exceptions for rape and incest. He told CNN at the time that he signed the measure because he hoped the US Supreme Court would eventually take up the legislation and overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide.
A year later, the Supreme Court did just that, allowing various state restrictions on the procedure to move forward, including in Arkansas. Hutchinson told CNN last year before Roe was overturned that he believed the Arkansas law should be “revisited” to provide exceptions for instances of rape or incest.
Hutchinson said Sunday that unless Republicans earn supermajority status in Congress, “we’re going to keep this issue in the states.”
Republicans have been wrestling with the issue of abortion, which has become a political landmine for their party and has hurt conservative candidates in recent elections. CNN previously reported that House Republicans have abandoned a yearslong push by their party to pass a federal abortion ban and are exploring other ways to advance their anti-abortion agenda.
Still, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Sunday that Republicans need to directly take on abortion issues in order to appeal to independents.
“Abortion was a big issue in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvania so the guidance we’re going to give to our candidates is to have to address this head-on,” she said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that Republicans need to “fight back” against Democratic attacks.
“You need to say, ‘Listen, I’m proud to be pro-life. We have to find consensus among Democrats and Republicans,'” she added.
Hutchinson formally kicked off his campaign in Bentonville, Arkansas, last week, touting his experience and record as a “consistent conservative.”
Asked by Bash on Sunday if there’s any appetite for his brand of Republicanism, Hutchinson said, “Absolutely. I wouldn’t be in this race if I didn’t believe it.”
The former governor also took a swing at a potential GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, over his yearlong fight with Disney, saying, “I don’t understand a conservative punishing a business that’s the largest employer in the state.”
“It’s not the role of government to punish a business when you disagree with what they’re saying or a position that they take,” Hutchinson said.
DeSantis’ clash with Disney dates back to the entertainment giant’s opposition to a Florida measure that restricts certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The law was dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents, and Disney vowed to help overturn it.
The Florida governor has defended the state’s actions against Disney, which include taking over the company’s special taxing district.
“In reality, Disney was enjoying unprecedented privileges and subsidies,” DeSantis said recently. “It’s certainly even worse when a company takes all those privileges that have been bestowed over many, many decades, and uses that to wage war on state policy regarding families and children.”
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