MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Thursday that he supports a federal abortion ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would sign such legislation into law if he became president.
“It makes total sense to me,” Scott told reporters in New Hampshire, where he was meeting with GOP officials and pastors a day after announcing his exploratory committee for a 2024 presidential campaign.
Abortion has become an increasingly animating issue in elections in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. Republican candidates are under pressure from influential anti-abortion groups to support a national ban. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have sought to codify the right to an abortion.
Scott declined to say whether he believes medication abortion should remain legal following a Wednesday ruling by a federal appeals court that preserved access to the abortion pill mifepristone for now but reduced the period of pregnancy when the drug can be used and said it could not be dispensed by mail. The Justice Department said it would ask the Supreme Court for an emergency order to put any action on hold.
“The courts are on their way to solving the problem,” Scott said of medication abortion.
As a senator, he has co-sponsored anti-abortion legislation and supported a 20-week ban with criminal penalties for abortion providers. Asked Thursday if he would sign such a bill as president, he said he supports a 20-week ban but did not comment on specific penalties.
“We should certainly always side with a culture that preserves and appreciates and respects life,” he said. “How do we do that? I certainly think that the 20-week threshold is not a question in my mind at all.”
Scott argued that questions about specific legislation obscure what he characterized as Democrats’ “radical positions” on abortion.
“When you look at the issue of abortion, one of the challenges that we have is we continue to go to the most restrictive conversations without broadening the scope,” he said.
Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, was in Iowa on Wednesday for meetings with evangelical pastors and parents who home-school their children. Both groups are part of the influential Christian conservative base of Republicans’ leadoff caucus state.
He also planned to meet with pastors in New Hampshire, generally considered one of the least religious states. Still, Scott said he expects his message to resonate.
“What we all should agree on is that we should have faith beyond ourselves. Faith in each other is beyond ourselves. Faith in the future of America is beyond ourselves,” he said.
The Republicans already in the 2024 race are former President Donald Trump, former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Others, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, are considering launching campaigns in the coming months.
DeSantis is expected to address roughly 500 Republicans at a New Hampshire GOP fundraising dinner Friday night. Scott had breakfast Thursday with state and local party officials and mingled with customers at a popular Manchester diner.
Brendan Celluci, finishing an omelet with several teammates from the minor league Portland Sea Dogs baseball team from Maine, said he didn’t expect to be meeting a presidential hopeful or being surrounded by media.
“Well, it’s not the most fun, but you know, life always throws curveballs at you,” he said.