Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates called for restrictions on abortion at an event Saturday for evangelicals in Iowa, courting the key conservative voting block in the state that will hold the first contest for the party’s nomination in early 2024.
At the first major campaign event for the evangelical community, the politicians also spoke about their opposition to transgender rights and their plans to promote Christian values and school choice.
“Every child born and unborn is a sacred gift from God,” Trump said, vowing to fight late-term abortions, though he did not address whether he would pursue federal restrictions on the procedure, a step some conservatives want.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, US Senator Tim Scott, venture capital investor Vivek Ramaswamy and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson also spoke at the event. All of them declared that they intend to run for the presidency or that they are considering a candidacy.
About 1,000 people attended the annual presidential forum organized by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative nonprofit organization. Trump was the only speaker who did not attend in person, delivering the speeches via video link.
Trump appears to be consolidating his grip on the Republican Party, with national polls showing him widening his lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential primary rival who did not attend Saturday’s event but will visit the state later this month. future
Iowa will hold the nation’s first Republican caucus in early 2024. Strong evangelical support early in the nominating process could help give a challenger a shot at Trump.
Trump won 76 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2020, down from 80 percent in 2016, according to exit polls by Edison Research. About a third of American adults identify as Christian or evangelical, according to a November 2020 Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Pence, a devout evangelical who may soon launch a presidential bid, was one of the speakers who promised to limit the availability of transition surgeries and other gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. Trump said he would issue an executive order “directing every federal agency to stop promoting sexual and gender transition at any age.”
Pence and other speakers described the promotion of such procedures as part of a radical leftist agenda that runs counter to Christian values, offering a preview of the culture war themes likely to dominate the Republican primary battle.
“The battle against radical gender ideology is a battle for religious freedom,” Pence said.
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