As Trump mulls his VP pick, an abortion-rights group warns about ‘extremist’ candidates

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As former President Donald Trump moves closer to selecting his running mate, a major Democratic abortion-rights advocacy group is taking his pool of vice presidential contenders to task over their records on reproductive rights. 

EMILY’s List, a group dedicated to electing Democratic candidates who back abortion rights, is focusing its annual “On Notice” list on Trump’s ever-evolving list of running mate contenders to highlight what it calls their “extreme anti-abortion agenda.” 

The list of 14 GOP contenders for the vice presidential nomination the group names includes oft-mentioned figures like Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as other former administration officials and allies, like Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake. 

The group also lists former Republican presidential candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. 

“Our message with these Republican VP picks is really simple. EMILY’s List sees the extremism, and we’re putting you on notice that this is going to be a ticket that supports an extreme anti-abortion agenda,” EMILY’s List President Jessica Mackler said in an interview. 

“We also think it’s important that we highlight when it comes to his running mate that this is going to be a ticket, regardless of who he picks, that is going to work to dismantle reproductive freedom in America,” she added. 

Still months before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this summer, Trump has offered little explicit insight into his deliberations around choosing a new running mate. But he has given some hints about what kind of a partner he would like in a future administration and what issues are driving his search. 

He has called Scott a “fantastic person” and sees him as an effective campaigner on his behalf, he has described Stefanik as a “killer,” and he sees growing stock in Vance after he successfully advised Trump during Ohio’s Republican Senate primary. 

But the issue of abortion and how to approach it on the campaign trail are already factoring into how Trump is approaching his “veepstakes.” 

Two sources close to Trump said he has been laser-focused on the issue when it comes to choosing his next running mate and questioned whether prospective vice presidential contenders’ hard-line views on abortion may turn off key voters in November. 

But Mackler made it clear that EMILY’s List will make no distinctions among the candidates; her group views them all as beyond the mainstream. 

“They’re doing whatever they can to hide their extremism,” Mackler said, describing what she sees as “a blatant attempt to trick voters into believing that he’s someone who’s not, and we already know that we can’t trust Donald Trump on this.” 

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Trump has long touted his role in overturning Roe v. Wade, citing the appointments of three conservative justices to the Supreme Court during his administration. After months of questioning by reporters and opponents alike, Trump released a video this month saying he believed abortion policy should be left to the states. 

Days later, after the Arizona Supreme Court cleared the way for a near-total ban on abortion, Trump agreed the restrictions went “too far” and said the legislation would be “straightened out.” In the same exchange with reporters, he said he would not sign a national abortion ban despite calls to do so from many fellow Republicans. 

His emphasis on states’ rights notwithstanding, Trump has held a variety of views on the issue since he entered the public political eye: He has described himself as “very pro-choice” and said Florida’s six-week abortion restrictions are a “terrible, terrible thing,” and he told former MSNBC host Chris Matthews in 2016 that women who receive abortions should be punished. 

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to lean heavily into the issue on the campaign trail. Vice President Kamala Harris — labeling Trump the “architect of this health care crisis” during a stop in Phoenix this month — has taken a lead role in the administration’s messaging on abortion rights with her nationwide “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour. And with Florida’s six-week restrictions set to take effect next month, President Joe Biden will deliver campaign remarks in Tampa on Tuesday in an attempt to tie the state’s restrictions to the consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade. 

The latest NBC News national poll found Biden with a 15-point advantage over Trump when it comes to dealing with the abortion issue, but the issue ranked fifth among those surveyed about what they saw as the biggest issue facing the country.

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