Election News

With Cruz out, antigay conservative leaders assess Trump’s stance

Among the statements that troubled many conservatives was Trump’s comment in a TV interview that women getting illegal abortions should be punished. He quickly backtracked after sharp criticism from anti-abortion activists who said it undercut their efforts to empathize with women while targeting abortion providers with restrictive laws.

The Susan B. Anthony List was among the anti-abortion groups assailing Trump. Said its president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, last month, “Each pronouncement Mr. Trump makes on the issue of life seemingly must be corrected by someone 15 minutes later.”

Dannenfelser, who was impressed by Cruz, is now open to backing Trump if he holds the anti-abortion line on three issues — defunding Planned Parenthood, supporting federal legislation that would ban most late-term abortions, and selecting federal judges who’d carry on the legacy of conservative Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice.

“There is no question that we have been and will remain vigilant,” Dannenfelser said in regard to Trump. “But he has given us commitments … We are cautiously optimistic he’ll stay steadfast.”

Another major anti-abortion organization, National Right to Life, had supported Cruz in the primaries. As of Thursday, it had not indicated publicly whether it would back Trump, though its president, Carol Tobias, noted that the group — like others in the social conservative realm — was opposed to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

One prominent abortion opponent — economics professor Michael New of Ave Maria University — went public with a tweet this week urging some leading Republican to launch a campaign against Trump now that Cruz and John Kasich have dropped out.

New, who employed the hashtag NeverTrumpForever, said he questioned Trump’s ability “to articulate the pro-life position in an attractive manner.” He also expressed doubts that Trump would nominate judges who would uphold anti-abortion laws.

Back in late February, when his campaign was thriving, Cruz formed a religious liberty advisory council and named 19 prominent social conservatives to serve on it, with Tony Perkins as the chairman.

Among its members was Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of the Texas-based First Liberty Institute.

Shackelford says he’s now open to supporting Trump, depending on how he handles one specific issue — the selection of judicial nominees for the Supreme Court and other federal courts with a view toward protecting religious freedom.

“I didn’t have any doubt about the type of justices Ted Cruz would appoint,” Shackelford said. “I haven’t had any interaction with Donald Trump or his team, but if he’s committed to solid judicial appointments, he’ll get my support.”

Another member of the Cruz advisory council was the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, pastor at a church in Sacramento, California, and president of the evangelical National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Rodriguez said he would expect Trump to endorse “a pro-life, pro-family, religious liberty, and immigration reform agenda.”

“To date Donald Trump’s comments about immigration have been inflammatory, impractical and unhelpful,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “Now that he is the presumptive nominee, we call upon him to immediately stop rhetorical commentary he has previously used that discredits groups, including Latino immigrants.”

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