President-Elect Trump Reveals His Plan for Abortion Rights

November 14th 2016

Mike Rothschild

As part of a wide-ranging "60 Minutes" interview Sunday night, President-elect Donald Trump revealed more about his plans for abortion access and rights.

Trump's position on abortion has shifted a number of times, and while he called himself "very pro-choice" in 1999, he also spoke in March of punishing women who had abortions --  a position he almost immediately walked back.

His latest comments Sunday on CBS seem to be a continuation of his stance that has included overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing the states to individually regulate abortion access.


Donald Trump: [H]aving to do with abortion if [Roe v. Wade] ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states and--

Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion?

Trump: No, it’ll go back to the states.

Stahl: By state—no some --

Trump: Yeah, well, they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state.

Stahl: And that’s OK?

Donald Trump: Well, we’ll see what happens

However, it's not clear what would happen if the landmark Supreme Court decision were actually overturned. Abortion laws vary wildly by state, with some having near bans (made unconstitutional by Roe v. Wade) and others have almost unlimited access. There are 20 states where if the landmark case should get overturned have laws "that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion,” according to The Guttmacher Institute.

Should the 1973 court decision no longer be federal law, this patchwork of laws and bans would immediately cause an avalanche of court cases that would take years to untangle -- likely ending up back in the U.S. Supreme Court.

It's also important to keep in mind that Supreme Court cases can't simply be "overturned" by dictate of the president or Congress -- it must be superseded by a ruling in another case. This has happened on a number of occasions, but it would require an abortion rights case to go before the court first. Recent rulings involving abortion have tended to favor pro-choice activists, including a 5-3 decision in 2016 striking down restrictions in Texas.

With the current makeup of the court, it would likely take appointing at least one more conservative justice to swing this balance, and Trump might not get to do that for several years.

Watch Trump's comments on abortion in full here.