Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longshot Democratic presidential candidate and conspiracy theorist, faced criticism from his own party and pro-choice groups after he said he would support a federal ban on abortions after the first three months of pregnancy. His campaign later claimed that he misunderstood the question and that he is in favor of women’s right to choose.
The controversy began on Sunday, when NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Ali Vitali asked Kennedy at the Iowa State Fair if he would sign a bill similar to the one proposed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. Kennedy replied that he would, and that he thought abortions should be legal “during the first three months of life”.
Anti-abortion group praises Kennedy
His answer drew praise from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which called him “one of the few prominent Democrats aligned with the consensus of the people today” and contrasted his position with the “radical stance” of the Democratic Party. The group also said that Kennedy’s views were in line with those of his late uncle, President John F. Kennedy, who was a Catholic and opposed abortion.
However, Kennedy’s campaign issued a statement later on Sunday, saying that he had misheard the question and that he does not support any legislation banning abortion. The statement said that Kennedy was in a “crowded, noisy exhibit hall” and that his position on abortion is that “it is always the woman’s right to choose”.
Kennedy’s history of controversial views
This is not the first time that Kennedy has stirred controversy with his views on various issues. He is a well-known climate change denier, anti-vaxxer, and issuer of antisemitic remarks. He has also clashed with the media and members of his own party over his candidacy, which is seen as a spoiler for President Joe Biden’s reelection bid.
Kennedy has been accused of receiving financial support from right-wing operatives who want to weaken Biden and divide the Democratic vote. He has also been criticized for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccines, and public health officials.
Abortion rights under threat
Kennedy’s comments on abortion come at a time when the issue is more relevant than ever, as the Supreme Court has scrapped Roe v. Wade in 2022, ending decades of federal protection for the medical procedure. The court’s conservative majority, appointed by former President Donald Trump, overturned the landmark ruling with only a leaked draft decision to provide any warning for the millions of Americans affected.
The decision has left abortion rights to the states, many of which have enacted or are planning to enact restrictive laws that would ban or limit access to abortion. Some states have also passed so-called “trigger laws” that would automatically ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy group for reproductive rights, 26 states have laws or constitutional amendments that could be used to restrict abortion .