DES MOINES, Iowa—Democratic presidential hopeful and known anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Sunday that he would support a national ban on abortion after the first three months of pregnancy if elected, only to walk back the stance hours later alleging he “misunderstood” repeated questions from NBC News on the topic.
“Mr. Kennedy misunderstood a question posed to him by an NBC reporter in a crowded, noisy exhibit hall at the Iowa State Fair,” a spokesperson said, clarifying the candidate’s stance on abortion as “always” being the woman’s right to choose. Kennedy "does not support legislation banning abortion,” the spokesman added.
But Sunday morning, Kennedy was much more specific, telling NBC: “I believe a decision to abort a child should be up to the women during the first three months of life.” Pressed on whether that meant signing a federal ban at 15 or 21 weeks, he said yes.
“Once a child is viable, outside the womb, I think then the state has an interest in protecting the child,” he continued, adding “I’m for medical freedom. Individuals are able to make their own choices.”
The original stance put Kennedy — who’s mounting a controversial, long-shot bid to unseat President Joe Biden as the Democratic standard-bearer in 2024 — out of step with the majority of his party at a time when abortion access has been a sustained motivator for voters.
A leading conservative anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List, praised Kennedy’s position in a statement, calling it “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?’”
In the interview, Kennedy defended running as a Democrat, despite espousing multiple typically conservative talking points during the 15-minute appearance.
For instance, Kennedy said he would not have voted to support the Inflation Reduction Act, among the biggest Democratic policy wins of Biden’s first term. Asked about the hundreds of billions of dollars in investments to fight climate change in the legislation, Kennedy said: “They say that this is fighting climate change; it’s actually doing the opposite.”
Kennedy steeply trails Biden in the polls and has been dogged by controversy in his few months as a candidate, including his having spread repeated disinformation about the efficacy of vaccinations and deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well antisemitic remarks.
While he agreed that former President Donald Trump had lost the 2020 election, he posited that “elections can get stolen in this country.” Asked whether he thinks Trump tried to overturn the election results after he lost, Kennedy said that based on what he has seen, "it seems like he was trying to overturn it.”
But he added that indictments themselves are not disqualifying: “Convictions might, but indictments don’t. I think we’re living in a weird period of history right now.”